The country may have gained political freedoms, but its economy remains a mess.
The protests began Sunday, after a man who had lost out on a job climbed a transmission tower and was electrocuted.
He wrote a poem. Recited it in his apartment to a group of seven people. Unknown to him, the poem was recorded and uploaded on YouTube. That was in 2011. Now he sits in prison in Qatar, serving a prison sentence of 15 years!
The incidents reflect mounting anger and frustration among North African youth who have few if any social and economic prospects.
Eventually, Assad or his sons must renounce power; history teaches that no repressive regime lasts forever. But how long until this family falls? How long until "might makes right" is replaced by morality, until the pen and law and human decency really do triumph over the sword?
Both countries are now weakened by violence. Another path is possible. Taking it requires the willingness of politicians, especially those who are governing, to open the dialogue and create a broad consensus. This is the only choice; the other leads to the abyss.
Post-revolt Arab nations are experiencing tumultuous times. Underlying the volatility in Egypt and Tunisia as well as difficult transitions in Libya and Yemen is the increasing lack of confidence between Islamists and non-Islamist forces.