Following months of uprising against his government, Syrian President Bashar al Assad continues to blame much of the unrest on armed groups and Islamist movements.
Syria has long tried to forge the image of a state that fought for the survival of Pan-Arabism against the interference and aspirations of western powers in the region.
While it will be difficult for Assad to continue to insist that he is fighting for the unification of the people and countries of the Arab world after being suspended from the Arab League, by using a rhetoric based on the "Islamic threat" the president seems to ignore one of the country's most problematic policies applied first by his father, the late Hafez Al Assad, and later by Bashar himself.
When it comes to domestic politics, one of the Assad regime's main opponents has been the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which has been credited with playing a major role in the mainly Sunni-based resistance movement that opposed the Baath Party.
However, while oppressing Islamists groups inside of the country, Syria has long been linked to Islamic organisations such as Hezbollah and Hamas, accused of training, sponsoring and supplying them, along with Iran, its main regional ally.
While Hamas is often cited as being close to the Assad regime, the movement has, in the last few months, taken an anti-Assad stance following Syria's brutal crackdown on protesters. Hamas, also has its roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, as leaders of its Gaza branch created the movement in 1988.
While Jordan and Iran are often cited as the main foreign backers at the beginning of the movement, Hamas soon became too embarrassing for Jordan and Syria, ultimately, became the organisation's most important Arab backer.
The first clear indication of a Hamas-Syrian alliance came in June 1994 after a Hamas delegation, led by Ibrahim Gosheh, met with Abdul Halim Khadam, Syria's former vice president, who is now a member of the Syrian opposition.
Gosheh said the meeting represented "a new era of relations" marked by "mutual consideration and understanding".
Reports suggest that Sheikh Izz al-Din Khalil, a senior commander of the Qassam Brigades (often described as the military wing of Hamas), was working closely with the Syrian military intelligence and established a Hamas operational headquarters in Damascus.
Hamas greatly benefited from Syria's laissez faire policy and enjoyed access to the then Syrian-occupied Lebanon, where it first made contact with Hezbollah fighters after hundreds of its members were deported to the south in 1992 by Israel.
Syrians also reportedly helped Hamas to recruit and access training at Hezbollah and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command camps in Eastern Lebanon, as well as transfer funds raised in the Gulf region to personnel in Gaza and the West Bank.
While actively sponsoring Hamas for its operations abroad and, in particular, against Israel, the Assad regime strictly forbade the movement from organising demonstrations inside Syria.
For many, Hafez al Assad's rapprochement with Hamas was a way to prove that he could sponsor terror in Lebanon with Hezbollah, as well as cause trouble for Israel in the West Bank and Gaza, a move that systematically raised his profile as a regional leader.
While the relationship between the two flourished in the mid-1990s, by 1999 Syria was under growing pressure from the U.S. to cut its links with Islamists militant groups and to start negotiating with Israel.
Former vice president Khadam reportedly held a meeting in Damascus in July that year to tell Palestinian militant groups they had to find non-violent means to support their cause. As soon as the talks between Syria and Israel collapsed in 2000, however, Hamas was back in Damascus and directing operations in Gaza and on the West Bank.
Under Bashar al Assad, cooperation with Hamas continued and the leader has touted his connection to the movement as a form of leverage for negotiating with Israel.
Following mass demonstrations against the government and the brutal crackdown on protesters, the movement has nevertheless distanced itself from the Syrian regime, a move that reportedly angered Iran, which subsequently cut its aid to Hamas.
Despite raising the threat that Western intervention would cause an earthquake that would "burn down the Middle East", the leader now appears to be the victim of years of a dichotomist policy, which saw the regime sponsoring Islamic movements that launched operations abroad while severely supressing internal fundamentalist movements.
The situation for the Syrian president is rendered even more dangerous as western powers have themselves ruled out an intervention, knowing that an internal collapse if covertly supported would prove more hurtful for the regime.
The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which was created between the end of the 1930s, fought Hafez al-Assad's regime for decades.
Its will to remove the Assad Alawites-based regime comes from a 13th century fatwa issued against the Alawites by Sheikh ibn Taymiyyah , a Muslim scholar which said 'Alawites were "greater infidels than the Christians and Jews...greater even than idolators."
The campaign against Assad began in 1979 after a SMB branch known as Al-Taalia al-Mukatila (the Fighting vanguard) attacked a military academy in Aleppo, killing more than 80 soldiers who were for most of them Alawites. .
Aleppo emerged as a Sunni hub of resistance against the Assad regime and the SMB organised several demonstrations and strikes in the city. The movement was quickly supported by secular groups who also suffered from the regime's oppression. Assad once again retaliated forcibly and deployed hundreds of soldiers to Aleppo, crushed the SMB-led rebellion and took almost 10,000 prisoners.
In June 1980 the SMB failed in its assassination plot against the Syrian president and in response Hafez's brother Rifaat reportedly ordered the killing of more than 1,000 SMB prisoners.
The attacks continued tit-for-tat until the Assad regime decided to vrutally crush the SMB insurrection in Syria's second largest city, Hama. The government bombed the city for two weeks, reportedly killing between 20,000 to 30,000 people, most of them non-combatant civilians, including women and children.
The hatred between the SMB and the Assad regime continued under Bashar, who upheld the Law 49, which made membership to the movement punishable by death.
The SMB is a popular underground movement in Syria despite being banned and forced into exile and in 2005 it decided to ally with the National Salvation Front, an opposition movement founded by Syria's former vice president Abdul Halim Khaddam.
In 2009 the relationship between Assad and the SMB appeared to progress after the group said in a communique that its primary war was against Israel, not the Syrian regime.
In the same year the SMB withdrew from the National Salvation Front, but the movement is now listed as one of the supporters of the Syrian National Council, the main opposition bloc that emerged from the uprising.
The Syrian National Council is now recognised as Syria's legitimate representative by the Democratic Coalition for Egypt, which include the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
While Assad has widely used its connection to Hezbollah and Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood has also maintained strong connections and protests in favour of the Palestinian movement have been organised by the MB in Egypt. Moreover, in October, Hamas was largely criticised by the Palestinians after it emerged some of its officials had dispersed a small anti-Assad protest.
Assad's father ruled Syria for decades and his offensives on protesters led to tens of thousands of deaths, but he managed to remain in power. However with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas now standing against him, Assad's future options borer on non-existent.