At the time, Syrians called it Damascus Spring.
Their young president, just months into office, hinted of a new era. He tolerated criticism and pledged modernization. Activists exulted, drafting petitions for free elections and further reform.
But within a year, authorities clamped down. Outside the government, people could only wonder whether Assad or his influential aides had ordered the crackdown. But it would become the pattern of Assad's government: a winding path between tolerance and suppression, isolation and engagement, as he strains to modernize his father's empire without causing its collapse.Hopefully Assad is the one now fully in control. If he is starting to reform he faces several obstacles. His is a minority government, secular in a country that is turning more toward religion. Alawite in a country that is majority Sunni. Fighting corruption against the resistance of entrenched officials that weaken the reforms before they can even be implemented. If he moves carefully maybe we will see a Jasmine Revolution in the future.