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The Syrian government has has tried with great determination and dexterity to fragment the society and to exploit sectarian differences and class differences to prevent the emergence of a secular nonsectarian nationalist opposition. Michael Provence is the director of the Middle East Studies Programs at the University of California, San Diego. His research focuses on the colonial and post-colonial Arab world, particularly popular insurgency and nationalism, and he has travelled and lived in many countries in the region including Lebanon and Syria.