People who really know Syria inside out realize that Bashar Assad began to undermine his rule the moment he became president. His so-called reform freed the economy without renewing political life. The neoliberal suit had to fit the Baath straight jacket. Assad found the perfect man for the job, Abdallah Dardari.

The skillful highranking UNDP official had the international reputation, the ideological conviction, and the diplomatic know-how. The next ten years would be the Dardari era of the Syrian regime. The mastermind behind a decade of “economic reforms,” Dardari would rise to become deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, a close confidant of the president, and an ally of the man who built an economic empire on the shoulder’s of Dardari’s plan, Assad’s cousin Rami Makhlouf.

The plan transformed Syria’s economy and left many behind, especially the people of the countryside. Stripped of economic security, they had little to lose. The state, their former protector, had became their enemy.

This is why it was no coincidence that the countryside has been the heart of the Syrian uprising. Daraa, Dariya, al-Moadamiya, Doma, Harasta, al-Tell, Saqba, al-Rastan, Talbisa. Even the cities of Homs and Hama could be considered part of that rural region.

The economic malaise was enough to make these rural Syrians risk death in defiance of the regime. Many residents saw their well-to-do neighbors become richer while unemployment slowly crept into their homes.

The country’s agricultural and industrial sector that they relied on to survive was eaten up by a neo-liberal order sponsored by Assad and engineered by Dardari.