Posted by Joshua on Monday, April 4th, 2011
Syria experienced its first day of political calm in over two weeks on April 3. The Sunami of protest and youth awakening that swept over Syria as part of the earthquake that hit the Arab World over two months ago has profoundly shaken Syrians. So accustomed to being the “island of stability” in the Middle East, Syrians are now wondering how long the Assad regime can last.
The Baathist regime has presided over Syria for 48 years; Bashar al-Assad has been president for eleven since inheriting power from his father. Both remain in firm control, although badly bruised and shaken. Western accounts of the protest movement in Syria have been exaggerated. At no time was the regime in peril. No officials resigned or left the country as happened in Libya. The Syrian army remained loyal to the president, unlike the armies of Egypt and Tunisia. And the protest movement that grew large in the Syrian countryside failed to take root in the cities. The number of demonstrators that turned out in Damascus, Aleppo, and Hama, three of Syria’s four largest cities- counted in the hundreds and not the thousands.
Damascus was the only one of these three cities to have demonstrations. There were four in all. The two most significant occurred early in the process on March 16 and 17. Dozens of young demonstrators marched through the al-Hamidiyeh and Hariqa souqs on March 16 shouting, “God, Syria, Freedom – is enough,” a chant that became the standard slogan of the movement that spread to other parts of Syria in the following two weeks. The day after, scores of human rights activists and the relatives of political prisoners demonstrated in front of the Interior Ministry. After Deraa flared up, the citizens of Damascus fell quite rather than getting on the bandwagon.
Aleppo, a hotbed of Muslim Brother support in the 1970s, was completely unaffected by the anti-government movement. Instead, Aleppines turned out in sizable numbers to support the government.
Hama was also unaffected. It was the city that the Muslim Brotherhood was able to take over in 1982 before having its old districts destroyed brutally by the regime. A friend from Hama, who was asked, “Why isn’t Hama rising against the regime and taking revenge?” answered, “Syrians demonstrate for their own reasons. Don’t ever think anyone in Daraa will shed a tear for Hama or the other way around.” He said there is no great Syrian revolution – just locals having internal issues.”
In Homs, by contrast, a sizable protest took place near the old city on Friday. Demonstrators chanted “Allahu Akbar” and called for “Freedom”. It was localized; violence flared up at the end. There were wounded on both sides, including security forces. The protest in Homs indicates that the cities are not immune to the movement. The hallmark of the successful Middle Eastern revolution has been the ability of the protesters to overwhelm security forces in the capital city. Damascus dispatched over a million of its inhabitants to a pro-Assad rally, leading many to conclude that the broad public remains on Bashar’s side.
All the same, many suspect that the protest movement, even if contained and sporadic, may become a nagging problem for the regime. Business will be reluctant to invest. The five year economic plan that was rolled out last year already looks wildly unrealistic. Its centerpiece is the gamble that Syria can attract 10 billion dollars of foreign investment a year. This year foreign investment will probably be less than 2 billion dollars. Economic failure will compound the regime’s problems. Opposition members insist that the barrier of fear in Syria has been punctured and that the long contained waters of liberty will eventually sweep it away. Others argue that the government will hit hard at the opposition to rebuild the wall of fear, making the protest movement a short lived phenomenon.
Deraa has been the site of the greatest demonstrations and the most violence. Tens of thousands took to the streets; some one hundred persons were killed in there and in the neighboring towns; many more were wounded. The protests were sparked for a very local reason. Fifteen high school kids were arrested for scrawling anti-government graffiti on the walls. But the long-term causes were not entirely local. The slogans chosen by the schoolkids mimicked those used by protesters in Egypt and their call for freedom. A six-year drought has also hit the entire East of Syria hard, devastating agriculture a ruining the wheat crop along with incomes just at the time that the youth bubble generated by decades of an elevated birthrates have brought frustrated and unemployed young onto the streets of Syria’s provincial cities. What is more, Deraa is a tribal region, which some blamed for the severity of the demonstrations. Tribal tradition requires local leaders to protest the incarceration of their children and for the members of the tribes to come out in force. Even today, the tribes can provide a vehicle of resistance to the central state. Arab and Kurdish tribes were some of the last social units in Syria to buckled in the face of central authority and national identity.
Latakia on the coast also saw several days of demonstrations and violence. This was surprising because it is the capital of the Coastal region dominated by Alawites. Twelve were killed. A number were also killed in Duma, a town outside of Damascus. Demonstrations broke out in many provincial cities indicating that opposition demands for curtailing corruption, lifting the emergency law, and greater freedoms and speedy reform have widespread resonance across the country.
What Has Changed?
Even if the government in Damascus remains powerful for the time being and Syrians cling to the stability it promises, there can be little doubt that we are witnessing a profound break from the past. The Arab Street has finally come into its own. Rulers will have to think twice before treating their people like sheep. Economic failure will be punished. The video phone has become the Arab equivalent of the six-shooter in the American West. It is the new “equalizer.” It offers a modicum of equity and justice to the ordinary man who can now hold his phone aloft to capture police brutality and send it to Youtube. Technology has been transformative. The recent unrest could not have been sustained without it.
The Syrian community abroad has been irrevocably reunited with Syrians inside the country. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this change. The young of Syria can no longer be isolated from foreign movements and intellectual trends. Those who go abroad used to become dissociated from Syria. Calling home was prohibitively expensive and returning made difficult by mandatory military service. Technology has attached the two communities. Skype, Facebook, and email have been all important to this revolution. In the past, the brain drain siphoned off Syria’s best and brightest; opposition leaders were sent into exile. Now they are leading the the charge against the regime, pumping sedition into every Syrian household with Youtube and Twitter updates.
A number of Arab states, in particular Tunisia and Egypt, have earned the right to be called nations. Their people have stood up as one to demand sovereignty. Although emergency rule has yet to be lifted in Egypt and a stable government has yet to take shape in Tunisia, there is good reason to believe they will. For other Arabs, particularly those of the Levant it is too early to make such bold statements about national integrity. The leading reason Syrians did not take to the streets in larger numbers is fear of communal strife and possible civil war. They do not dislike their government enough to risk going the way of Iraq. Among large segments of Syrian society, Bashar al-Assad remains popular. As a multi-ethnic and religious society, Syria could come unglued.
But in a four or five years, the next generation of Syrian youth will not remember the turmoil in either Lebanon or Iraq. Palestine will be a cause remembered only by grandfathers. Instead of defeat and hopelessness, invoked by Iraq and Palestine, young Arabs may well have the examples of Egypt and Tunisia. They may well be on the road to becoming the Arab World’s first democracies.
This begs the question of how long the Assad regime can last. Syria’s youth are no longer apathetic. They have tasted revolution and their own power. Many commentators have remarked on Bashar al-Assad’s stubbornness. He may be a “modernizer,” but not a “reformer,” is how Volker Pertes recently explained it. This is a polite way to say that he is not preparing the way for a handover of power from Alawites to Sunnis. Assad’s refusal to prepare the present regime for a soft landing spells bad news for Syria. The day that regime-change will come to Syria seems closer today than it did only a short time ago.
[End of article]
A friend has confirmed that the entire Syriatel network is down for the second day. All 093 numbers are down. MTN 094 is working.
The Syrian pound deposits saw their first increase in 2 week. 19 money exchange guys were imprisoned.
The Syrian stock market closed at its lowest level for a while. From a previous low of 1450.5 , it rallied to 1539.9 (close to 6%) and then moved right back down to close today at 1449.6. Not a calamity but worth watching and keeping an eye on. Volume was very low today so one cannot tell much. Saghir thinks that everyone is waiting for the economic team in the new government to be announced.
Also the amount of money people could make on the 10,000 dlr limit was amazing. Everyone was able to walk into a bank and buy 10,000 dlrs from a bank at one exchange rate and walk into the next exchange house and sell the dollars to them for a quick profit of 250 dollars. All in 5 minutes. All at the expense of central bank
Assad names new prime minister
April 3, 2011
(JTA) — Syrian President Bashar Assad appointed a new prime minister, former Agriculture Minister Adel Safar, and asked him to form a government. Safar’s appointment on Sunday — less than a week after the previous government resigned — came as thousands attended the mass funeral of at least five protesters who were killed over the weekend in the Damascus suburb of Douma. Adel Safar is generally regarded as a respectable figure in a government that many had criticized for corruption. ….
At least 2,000 Druse in the Golan Heights demonstrated Saturday in support of Assad.
One Commenter writes: “He is from a village south of Damascus, so perhaps he was chosen to appease the people of rural southern Syria who represent most of the protesters now. This man has no history in economics at all.”
Syria Emergency Law Alternative Ready By Friday
DAMASCUS (AFP)–The commission charged with replacing Syria’s emergency law with new legislation will conclude its work by Friday, a newspaper close to the government reported. “Sources within the commission tasked with studying the removal of the emergency law said it will, by Friday, finish formulating the necessary legislation to replace the emergency law,” the Al-Watan newspaper said Monday.
Lifting Syria’s emergency law, in place since the end of 1962, has been a central demand of protesters in their three weeks of pro-reform rallies held across the country.
Al-Watan said the commission’s work is inspired by the “experience and legal frameworks of the United States, the United Kingdom and France, while taking into account both the dignity and safety of all citizens”. “Its conclusions will be publicly discussed and the commission will listen to all views before the government passes the proposed legislation.” The newspaper report was not officially confirmed. President Bashar al-Assad had set April 25 as the deadline for the judicial commission to complete the task of drafting the new legislation to replace the emergency law.
One European friend who works in Damascus writes:
- Friday 25 March demonstrations came as a surprise to many and gave to all a sense of organization behind (regarding before the Friday 25 demons I already wrote to some of you an email).
- On Saturday 26 an Alawi (the minority sect in power, President included ) friend from Lattakia told me that they had to move to the countryside because there were people attacking Alawis. The news circulating in Syria were talking about “foreigners” (Jordanian, Yemeni etc.) going in to minorities neighbors shooting randomly, infiltrating protesters and shooting to police to provoke violent reactions, distributing poisoned food etc. Moreover there were terrorizing sms sent to people of an incoming sectarian violence against them. This became the official version of the Syrian media. Another Alawi friend in Damascus told me similar things witnessed by him. He belongs to a self defense group of Alawis in the Mezzeh Area called 86. The 86 area is an area in Damascus occupied by Alawis emigrants from Lattakia mountains when they took power. Successively the Alawi regime gave them this area, took from Damascene residents and owners. Patrolling this area he witnessed the police being attacked by young and much trained guys (“foreigner” accents even in this case) once their car was stopped. The car seized resulted later filled with weapons.
- Without any doubt and from the amount of witnesses from different sources something strange happened. Forces were trying to destabilize Syria bringing or menacing a sectarian conflict. Proves were given by the Syrian television. These proves were ignored by among others Al Jazeera.
- Now the reality it could be that real external forces (people mention Hariri group of Lebanon with Saudi help backed by USA and Israel) tried to destabilize Syria. Another thesis could be that Syrian secret service did so for the reason below.
- The only strong main legitimacy of this minority (predominantly “Alawi”) regime is the fact that it can assure stability and avoid sectarian violence like Iraq or Lebanon while permitting to a limited elite (predominantly Sunni Muslim but even Christian, Armenian, Drusi etc..) to develop economically and became rich. Once the spectrum or fear of sectarian violence is on the horizons, the majority of the people from all sects and especially all minorities will rally behind the President asking first of all security (at the price of freedom). No one, even most of the protesters (still a very small minority until now), want to become like Iraq or Libya.
- That is what happened and most of the people rallied for the President days after the Friday protests. Around 1,5 million or even more people went on the street in Damascus. Demonstration of support were held in quite all Syria.
- The people here are very upset on how Al Jazeera is covering the Syrian events. Many persons I know, not at all regime’s funs, now believe that the satellite channel has an hidden agenda on this issue. They claim (with proves) that Al Jazeera is showing false videos of demonstrations and that is ignoring other facts the Syrian government and media are reporting on the “foreign” hands behind the events. I can testify living here that the image and info Al Jazeera is giving about Syria events are at least “exaggerate” and not represent the real situation. In any case Al Jazeera is without any doubt contributing to exacerbate the situation and the “etats d’esprit”.
- After the demonstration in support of the President came his speech on the Parliament. I can assure you that except the supporters, very few people were happy. The expectations were high and he disappointed the majority. A lot of old stale smell went on the air. In my opinion the regime, confident after the demonstration in favor, decided to show it will not bow to “foreign” pressure and it will reform when it wants. The day after it was announced that commissions to study the “emergency law” as well as the “Kurdish question” and others issues will be established to study how to change. Many believe they are empty promises but they have no other choice than to believe.
- Then the yesterday protests came. The majority was hoping that things will get calm, it did not. The situation is very tense now. In reality the protests are still very small and even if distributed in many cities do not yet represent the will of the majority. The problem is just that the Syrian regime like all dictatorships are not used to dissent, to contestation and do not know how and want manage it. Europeans and Americans (westerns) have witnessed protests and know how things go smoothly there. You can see millions in the streets contesting the government (in Europe for example) and the government still in power after that. Here I really realized how fragile a dictatorship system is.
- You can rarely find dollars in the market now, I had to go to Lebanon to find some.
- A friend went to the bank to take some money and they give him only small pieces (200 SP equal to 4 dollars). The big pieces (1000 SP, 20 dollars) were not available. Many are taking their money from the bank scared of the future. This morning I had to visit 6 or 7 banks to find one delivering cash from the machine.
- Price of gold is very high, the top of ever.
- All international transfers are on hold for fear of capital flee. Tomorrow they must come back to normal.
- The port of Lattakia (the main entrance of goods in Syria) was closed until yesterday. I have been informed that today opened after around 1 week of closure.
- During the last week shops in Lattakia were closing after door and no clients on the streets.
- In the rest of Syria sales in general are down, people scared, but most of the people are living normally even if with tensions and electricity on the air.
- After the protests the government is giving a kind of general amnesty and asked its bureaucracy to speed all the procedures on hold, I mean: police is not stopping for infractions (I did not see a policemen writing), a friend get his paper approved after 4 years and half waiting for security approval (here everything needs security approval), I have been told about a lot of illegal constructions built during these days of chaos not stopped by the authorities, even Zara could open in the capital after for many years the owner could not get the commercial permission for the location (some voices are saying that it did without permission but exploiting the current situation) . Probably in this case worked a big help from Makhlouf (Syriatel the main mobile company owner as well as The duty free shops and many many more), the president cousin on the USA black list for corruption and 50% (or more) shareholder of the Zara and MD project.
- Why demonstrations on Friday? Because Friday is the day of common prayer for Muslims and is the sole day governments cannot forbid gathering of people. Probably if they could, dictatorships will forbid Friday prayers in many Muslim countries. As you can see, even controlling the Imams speeches and selection cannot guarantee the people avoid to express themselves freely once together.
- Things now (today) seem to get back to calm even if the air is tense. Maybe we have to wait next Friday to see more protests or maybe it will calm down.
- Now I really took too much time from my work. I hope that these notes will give you a better clearer idea of what is happening.
A note of a 19-year old young man’s thoughts (Bassam) about his participation in the Mar 15 demonstration in Hareeqa Damascus. It is being passed around. I cannot testify to it, but it would seem authentic.
Mar 15th., The Morning. I Thought – I am Scared
……Not sure when I actually fell asleep or for how long, but my sisters are getting ready to go to school. … The next few hours were a big blur to me as I don’t exactly recall how I spent them….
I got into a taxi and told him, to Hareeqa please. ……..My heart is beating about a thousand times a minute, my mouth is very dry I couldn’t even cough, and I am soaking with cold sweat. It is not too late Beeso, you can still go home and no one needs to know… No one can say you’re a coward… But wait, if I don’t do it, no one else would. …
A few minutes later, I started hearing some chanting. Allah, Syria, etc. etc. Oh no, I said to myself, the regime lackeys are at it. They must be chanting for Bashar. Wait a minute, I could swear they didn’t say Bashar. I walked a little closer to see what’s going on. There were not more than 5 guys chanting, Allah, Syria, Hourya ou bass. What am I hearing? This is actually happening you guys. This is it, I am witnessing the first demonstration against the regime! This is no longer outside of Syria. We are in Syria, we are doing it and in front of the security guys. I have no idea how it happened next, but from where I was standing, which was about 30 meters from the chanting guys, I started yelling with my cracking voice, Allah, Syria, Hourya (freedom) ou bass… I am telling you, God works in mysterious ways. I have no idea how I was suddenly surrounded by not less than 10 other guys, and they started chanting after me. By God, I am leading a demonstration against Bashar… Some of the guys whom I thought were security guys were among the people chanting with me. That’s it, we are going to be shredded to pieces if they catch us. Yes, I said “us”. I am no longer alone. I am surrounded by nameless people, people whom I have met only minutes ago, yet a unique kind of bond has formed over these short minutes. We ARE the good guys, and we are facing it, whatever it may be, together.
As we went on chanting, I looked around me at the pale-faced shop keepers. They were scared even to look at us. I could swear some of them were reciting verses of Quran, fearing for their lives, just because of what they’re witnessing. Local policemen started talking to us in such a caring way, “come on you guys, don’t do that, please go home”. Wow, funny how even a remote hint of accountability could change the attitude of an oppressor. Under any other circumstance, they would have been breaking in their army-issued boots on our behinds.
The chanting went on for about 15 minutes. Everyone whipped out their camera-equipped mobile phones, thank you Nokia, and started shooting footage of us. At some point, the people shooting videos out-numbered us 10 to 1. But they were not chanting, so they don’t count. Lo and behold, a few minutes later, about 10 minibuses arrived carrying the brave men of some elite unit and they wasted no time in grabbing people. And here comes the highlight of my experience. Those same pale-faced shop keepers started helping out… not helping us of course, but helping the brave men by pointing to them which direction everyone was running to, or what building entrance we escaped to. I thought to myself, am I not risking myself so we can all have a better life, including those loyal shop keepers? An older shop keeper even attacked us with a stick, of course in front of the brave men. I had prepared myself for everything, except for this. I yelled at him, we are risking ourselves for everyone, even for you and your kids. He simply cursed my father for such an outlaw offspring and yelled at me to do “it” away from his shop.
So we did some fancy running… Yes, years of soccer practice at the Jalaa club did pay off, thank you Mom and Dad. A few minutes later, most of us made it back to our merry ways back home (with the exception of the few unlucky ones who got caught and beaten by either shop keepers, security guys, by-passers, or by all). We did deploy some minor strategies afterwards, like not going home directly, not calling each other later, using code words like how was lunch, etc. etc.
Damascus seems different to me ever since that memorable afternoon. It feels like it never did before. Sometimes I go back to the crime scene, and I smile when I look at the fence I had to jump over, and at the street where I almost got run over by a passing car as I was fleeing the scene. It sure feels different. It feels more… “mine”. All in all that day, I did suffer a ripped sweater, a scratch on my hand, and a solid resolve. And by the way, I am not scared anymore.
Crisis in Syria; Holding the fort
President Bashar Assad is under intensifying fire but refuses to retreat
Mar 31st 2011 | DAMASCUS | The Economist
THE protests that started in the southern city of Deraa on March 18th have spread—and the regime of President Bashar Assad has so far been determined to crush them. Since March 25th, when many thousands of Syrians again took to the streets for the second Friday in a row, more than 40 people have been killed, raising the death toll in two weeks to more than 100—and many more than that have been arrested and tortured.
After the most recent bloody round of protests in Deraa, the nearby town of Sanamein erupted too: at least 15 people were shot dead. Protests have also occurred in Homs and at least a dozen other places. Most worrying for Mr Assad, they also broke out on a large scale in the port city of Latakia, leaving another score of people dead. It has long been a stamping-ground for his ruling family and a hub of his own minority Alawite sect, so the unrest has come dangerously close to home.
The regime has set about muzzling the media and issuing its own counter-propaganda. Visas for foreign journalists are hard to come by; entering Deraa, except in rare cases with an official minder, has been impossible. A well-orchestrated demonstration in favour of Mr Assad on March 29th drew tens of thousands of people onto the streets of Damascus, many of them genuinely keen to support him.
Yet the germ of protest has continued to spread. Trouble seems to be popping up in new places. Kurds in the north-east are getting restless. Local grievances have been amplified into national ones. Chants and banners in the crowds are calling for the fall of the regime. Posters and statues of Mr Assad and his father, Hafez Assad, who ruled Syria from 1971 until his son took over after his death in 2000, have been defaced.
Israel still has emergency law in effect, enacted by the Brits in 1945 and never annulled, and that’s the legal basis for the indefinite detentions and blanket gag orders and lack of transparency regarding the nukes and other things.
Many have been arrested.
Turkey will not accept anything that shakes the stability of Syria and supports Assad’s reforms …..
تركيا: لن نقبل بأي تصرف يؤدي إلى زعزعة الاستقرار في سورية وندعم ما قدمه الرئيس الأسد بخصوص الإصلاحات السياسية والاجتماعية والاقتصادية
Mr. Kerry’s statement could presage a hardening Washington line toward Damascus as political protests are expected to continue in Syria. So far, the White House has taken a cautious approach. The U.S. has criticized the Syrian government’s use of forces against its people. But President Barack Obama’s administration hasn’t indicated it might pursue punitive measures against Syria, such as new economic sanctions, in response.
World Bank To Host Meeting On Middle East Economies April
2011-04-02 By Bob Davis
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–World Bank officials have invited the leadership of regional development banks to meet here on April 14 to devise economic policies to help Egypt, Tunisia and other Middle Eastern nations trying to make transitions to democracy, according a senior World Bank official. The session comes as officials from the U.S., Europe and the Middle East are working on programs to help Middle Eastern countries make up temporary shortfalls caused by a drop in tourism and other economic turmoil. They are also studying policies to promote employment, especially among college-educated young people who have been the vanguard of some protests sweeping the region.
Where ‘Jasmine’ Means Tea, Not a Revolt
By ANDREW JACOBS
Published: April 2, 2011
BEIJING — Over the nearly four decades since President Richard M. Nixon established diplomatic ties with Red China, American politicians have clung to the idea that the growing ranks of Chinese entrepreneurs and college-educated strivers would one day find electoral democracy irresistible. But a stroll through one of the capital’s upscale malls quickly demolishes such idealistic notions — and instead makes you wonder whether China’s autocrats have struck on a flexible model of long-lasting rule.
At the Oriental Plaza mall, young professionals dressed in Nikes and Abercrombie & Fitch openly profess their admiration for Communist Party governance. ”Any change in the political system would just throw China into disorder,” said Guo Ting, a 30-year-old office assistant. “Our leaders are doing a good job.”
by Lachlan Carmichael Lachlan Carmichael
Sun Apr 3, 4:52 pm ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Although the Assad regime in Syria has long been a thorn in Washington’s side, the Obama administration is not yet ready to throw its lot in with anti-government protesters there, analysts said.
The unrest gripping Syria comes as President Barack Obama pursues a new US policy of engaging with a former foe in a bid to promote a broader Arab-Israeli peace by driving a wedge between Syria and its ally Iran.
His administration may be hedging its bets because it will still have to deal with the regime if President Bashar al-Assad and his powerful security forces end up crushing the unrest.
Ammar Abdulhamid, a Washington-based Syrian dissident and democracy activist who has political contacts in Washington, said some US officials fear a change and prefer to work with Assad, at least for now.
“I think they will get there (to accept a change) in due course of time,” Abdulhamid told AFP.
“But for now… they are afraid that… Assad will not go out gently into that good night and therefore they might try to create trouble, and that will create a civil war type scenario.”
They fear it “will be either civil war or they will have to deal with an even more radicalized and anti-Western regime if the Assads came up in control again,” said Abdulhamid, who heads the Washington-based Tharwa Foundation.
However, the dissident said, such fears are misplaced because the Damascus regime can hardly become more radical than it is with its close ties to Iran and its support for anti-Israeli Hezbollah and Hamas.
Abdulhamid nonetheless welcomed the Obama administration’s decision to avoid showing undue fear that Islamists would emerge from the protest movement and assume power in Syria.
But Middle East analyst Marina Ottaway said such a threat may exist even though the Muslim Brotherhood was crushed after it was massacred in Hama in 1982 on the orders of Bashar’s ruthless father Hafez al-Assad.
“Has it gone underground, how quickly can it be revived, how much sympathy is there still for the Muslim Brotherhood? I have no idea and I don’t think anybody else has an idea on that,” she said.
The Obama administration is struggling to come up with a policy “case by case, country by country,” said Ottaway, who heads the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“You cannot say that because the US in the end decided against (former Egyptian president Hosni) Mubarak and (went) on the side of the protesters in Egypt, that it’s going to do the same thing in Syria,” she said.
Ottaway said US officials have more difficulty understanding the protesters and their movement in Syria because there has been a “greater void of political activity” and deeper repression there than in a country like Egypt.
The protests pose a problem for the Obama administration — which she noted is trying to improve ties with Syria to advance US policy — as it will have to assess whether the protest movement will succeed or be crushed.
“If this is something the Syrian government is going to repress quickly, then a policy of trying to find a way to work with the Syrian regime makes sense,” Ottaway said.
“If the protest (movement) is going to continue, and has real potential of bringing about change, then the US had better learn to work with the protesters.”
A senior European diplomat based in Washington said Western powers were concerned about what may replace the Assad regime.
“More than in Libya, you have some extremist networks, connections with Iran, Hezbollah,” the diplomat told reporters on the customary condition of anonymity.
“If it is to have Assad out and a pro-Iranian regime in, that would not be the goal. It’s not an easy task to do for us
WASHINGTON (AFP)–The United States Sunday said it authorized family members of U.S. government employees to leave Syria as it heightened a travel warning for the country being roiled by political unrest.
“The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the potential for ongoing political and civil unrest in Syria,” the department said in a statement.
“We urge U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Syria at this time. The Department of State has authorized the voluntary departure of all eligible family members of U.S. government employees. U.S. citizens in Syria should closely examine their security situation in light of this and other recent developments and consider departing Syria.”
The statement updated a warning issued March 31 and reiterated some of the precautions called for at that time.
This is diplomatic retaliation against the arrest of 2 American citizens in Syria (released today). The department also warns of a possible increase in “anti-foreigner sentiment.” “Detained U.S. citizens may find themselves subject to allegations of incitement or espionage,” the statement read. The government said Syrian authorities do not notify the U.S. of the arrest of a U.S. citizen until days or weeks after an arrest, and requests for consular access go unanswered, especially in the case of those detained for “security” reasons.
Middle East crisis: Inside Syria’s ruling family
But there is also a lingering belief, one held by Dennis Ross, President Obama’s principal Middle East advisers among others, that Mr Assad would reform if he wasn’t held back by an old guard he inherited from his father and predecessor Hafez. …