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Oddsmakers: Ouster of Assad unlikely before 2012

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Oddsmakers give Syrian President Bashar Assad a more than 70 percent chance of remaining in office beyond 2011, but Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh get much lower odds of clinging to power.

According to the news-futures website Intrade, bettors were wagering there is only a 28.5 percent chance that Mr. Assad would be ousted before midnight on Dec. 31, 2011. The odds for Col. Gadhafi and Mr. Saleh were 75 percent and 57 percent, respectively.

Intrade takes bets on everything from election results to box-office returns. It has responded to the upheaval across the Arab world by creating survival markets for the region's various embattled leaders.

The Dublin-based site functions like a hybrid of the stock market and a betting parlor, with traders buying "shares" in various outcomes that expire at $10 if the predicted event happens and $0 if it does not.

Its predictive record has earned it a reputation as a good, if imperfect, barometer of the future: On the eve of the 2008 presidential election, it forecast that Barack Obama would win 364 electoral votes — one vote shy of the final tally.

Some additional Intrade odds that other Middle Eastern potentates would be ousted by the end of the year:

• Bahraini Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa — 19 percent.

• Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika — 15 percent.

• Saudi Arabian King Abdullah — 11 percent.

• Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — 10 percent.

• Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — 5 percent.

Another world leader predicted to stay in office: President Obama.

The president remains a 51 percent favorite to win re-election. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney remain co-favorites to replace him, each with a greater than 30 percent chance to be the Republican nominee.

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About the Author

Ben Birnbaum

Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.

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