For twenty years, following the institution of Hafez el-Assad's regime in Damascus, a threat has hovered over the Syrian people themselves, victims of deplorable domestic repression, other Middle East nations and Western interests. This is undeniably one of the major obstacles to any political change in the region. At the moment, however, following upheavals in the socialist camp which will clearly deprive Assad of precious support, his influence is beginning to falter. In addition, the economic situation in Syria, in gradual decline for some ten years, has now reached a disturbing level of deterioration. So the time has come for Western powers to make the most of the difficulties facing the Syrian leader today and develop a concerted action aimed at limiting his capacity to do harm or even forcing him to relinquish his power. There is a very broad range of possible reprisals. From diplomatic pressure on Moscow to economic sanctions imposed on Damascus, as well as the internal destabilization of Hafez al-Assad's regime, Syria's opponents have a rich arsenal from which to draw. Not all of these measures may reach their chosen target, but they will at least remove any ambiguities surrounding Western political attitudes to Syria.