The Syrian Reform Group based in America and led by Faride Ghadry called for demonstrations in Syria last Saturday 5th February. They were jumping on the Egypt bandwagon. Not to be outdone the Muslim Brotherhood jumped on Faride Ghadry's bandwagon and called for demonstrations a day earlier on Friday 4th February.
And what happened? There were no demonstrations of any significance. The Muslim Brotherhood were utterly humiliated. Truth is they are very weak in Syria just as they are in Egypt (contrary to Western perceptions). Indeed they were humiliated in Egypt under similar circumstances ("The 6th April Movement" in Egypt successfully called a general strike on 6th April 2010 demanding the removal of President Mubarak but a repeat demonstration called for 6 May 2010 was cancelled by them because they perceived the Muslim Brotherhood as jumping on the bandwagon - this lead to the political humiliation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt at the time).
That is not to say that they would not garner support in a genuine election in either country, perhaps even mustering 20% of the votes. But they can never be the key political force in Syria.
Is that the point? Perhaps not. It was the street, not the Muslim Brotherhood, that led the Egyptian Revolution.
So why then no street protests in Syria? Well one reason is the Syrians were not inclined to join a protest called in the name of the Muslim Brotherhood of course (the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is already much discredited because of its close association with Khaddam, the much hated former Vice President of Syria). Another was that it takes more courage to demonstrate in Syria given the stronghold the government exercises. And a third is economic.
Economic you ask? Well yes, economic. To quote the Middle East Association this week, "Syria boasts one of the region’s most diversified economies. With ever increasing competition, the private sector is experiencing growth and a rise in foreign investment. GDP growth is 4.5%, and future growth is expected as Syria’s international standing develops. A substantial increase in bilateral trade is anticipated in 2011-12 as the country becomes more integrated into the global economy. There are promising opportunities in construction, tourism, healthcare, infrastructure, and the energy sector."
Yes but, you say, Egypt has 4-5% growth and look what happened there. Well sure but in Egypt they've had World Bank driven reforms which mean that they no longer run a centralised economy with cheap food prices. Furthermore, in Egypt the rich have displayed their wealth in lavish fashion, living in elite walled ghettos, a world apart from the people. In Syria there is still staggering poverty but none the less the wealth has spread a little further into the middle income groups than in Egypt. Furthermore Syria is a smaller country. Egypt is hugely overpopulated with 80 million people crammed into quite a modest swathe of habitable land.
And finally I guess, Syria is just better run. Less chaos. Which is why Syria gets no revolution. Syria may be vulnerable to a military coup (and that's pretty questionable) but certainly not to a street led revolution. Not anytime soon anyway. Simple eh?