Washington is accusing Damascus of harboring Iraqi leaders and weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. no longer accepts Syrian support for militants such as Hezbollah and Hamas and sees little value in Assad's repressive, socialist regime. The Iraq invasion shows Washington is willing to intervene in the Middle East.
Performance has been poor, with per- capita gross domestic product only about $1,000 and declining. Unemployment is estimated at 20%.
Assad's efforts at reform have been blocked by entrenched interests in his Baath Party and the business community. Resentment of alleged corruption is increasing.
The Baath Party and its socialist, Arab nationalist program is increasingly irrelevant to the 21st century. Yet the regime has also prevented other political parties from developing, and controls the media.