Ignatius Lesch, Seale, Tisdall, Khalaf, Fadel on Assad and Syria

Tens of thousands of Syrians gather for a pro-government rally at the central bank square in Damascus March 29, 2011.

In Syria, many uneasy about where struggle for power might lead
By Leila Fadel, Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Washington Post

CAIRO — When anti-government protesters buried their dead last week in southern Syria, their chants made clear that the divisions now coursing through Syria run even deeper than politics.

“No Iran,’’ they shouted. “No Hezbollah. We want Muslims who fear God.’’

To anyone listening, the message was unmistakable: that the quest to topple the Assad family also reflects years of pent-up grievances among majority Sunni Muslims who resent the power held by the minority Alawite sect.

That sectarian tension lies behind some of the passions now exploding in Syria as President Bashar al-Assad seeks to appease an angry population. But it also explains the apprehension being voiced by many Syrians uneasy about where a struggle for power might lead.

On Tuesday, as Assad offered new concessions to his opponents, thousands of Syrians gathered in downtown Damascus to show support for a leader whose family has kept a tight lid for more than 40 years on a country with a potentially explosive mix of religious sects and ethnicities.

Assad hails from a dynasty of Alawites, the minority sect that makes up no more than 16 percent of Syria’s population of mostly Sunni Muslims with a sprinkling of Christians and Druze. The challenge now being mounted by opponents is the most serious yet to the Assads’ grip on power, but it is also prompting warnings that any regime change in Syria could ignite internal violence.

“The Syrians have looked into the abyss, and they realize that Bashar al-Assad is not going to step down, that the Alawite regime is not going to go away, and in order for it to go away, they would have to go through a civil war,’’ said Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma.

Activists say the government is trying to ignite unease by portraying their democratic movement as a sectarian one. The government has described the protests as a foreign “conspiracy” and a “project to sow sectarian strife.”

But there is evidence that the possibility of such clashes has unnerved some Syrians.

The Sunni Arab elite of Syria largely supports Assad, seeing him as an agent of stability and economic reforms. That is now threatened as foreign companies begin to pull out their staffs and tourists flee.

Religious minorities worry that if the Sunni majority came to power, Syria could become a repressive Islamic state. They would rather continue to live under the current system, sacrificing their freedoms in a secular and repressive state, than risk what might follow if Assad is ousted.

“As a minority we know that under a regime that is also a minority at least there is a secular system we’re comfortable to live under,” said a Christian resident of Damascus.

“Now it is pretty safe and people do not have problems with each other,” he said. “That’s because we know in the back of our minds if sectarian violence did break out it would be bad and it would be long term.”…..

“There is the fear of sectarianism, and then there is the fear of the regime,” said Yassin Al-Haj Saleh, a Syrian intellectual and member of the opposition who was imprisoned for 16 years.

“This type of thing pushes many people to identify with the regime, to ask for protection from the regime, and the regime is completely aware of this,” he said. “This is their strategy.”

Ghimar Deeb, a lawyer in the capital, dismissed the idea of underlying sectarian tensions and said Assad needs time to implement reforms. “I believe this case that we’re living through right now will make Assad and Syria stronger and more Syrian,” he said.

“Bashar al Assad stages his own coup”
David Ignatius, Washington Post

“Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is attempting a new survival tactic in this Arab Spring — organizing what looks like a coup against his own government. Over the next 48 hours, it should become clear whether he has the political muscle and dexterity to pull off this unusual maneuver.

Assad dismissed his cabinet ministers Tuesday, and his backers encouraged massive public demonstrations of support in Damascus, Aleppo and other Syrian cities. Photographs showed huge crowds; a Syrian source claimed that 2 million Assad supporters had assembled in Damascus and 1 million in Aleppo, but it’s impossible to confirm these numbers. In their effort to turn the tables on protesters, the regime used Facebook as one of its tools to summon demonstrators. The social networking site was officially approved in Syria less than two month ago….

The decisive moment could come as early as Wednesday, when Assad may give the major speech the public has been expecting. He is said to have waited because he didn’t want to be caught in the same cycle as Egypt’s desposed president, Hosni Mubarak, who made a series of speeches announcing modest concessions, each of which only fueled the demand for more. Assad appears to be holding his cards for one big play, a move that his wily father, President Hafez al-Assad, would have endorsed.

Information I gathered from sources on Tuesday about the political jockeying inside Syria fits with what I heard from inside the Assad camp when I was in Damascus a month ago.

A measure of Assad’s seriousness is whether he moves to curtail the political and economic power of his own family….I wrote last month after visiting Damascus that Assad planned to press Makhluf to reduce his Syriatel holdings, as a symbol of his broader reform effort. That’s still said to be on Assad’s agenda.

The Assad clan also has military power that could obstruct Bashar’s reformist moves. His brother Maher, for example, commands a tough unit of Syrian special forces, and his brother-in-law Assaf Shaukat has been a senior intelligence official. It’s anyone’s guess, at this point, whether the Assads will remain united behind Bashar or fall into a bloody internal fued, but so far Bashar has proved the master of the situation….Some pro-reform members of the Assad government have referred to the dead protesters as “martyrs,” a sign of their eagerness to connect Assad with the wave of change that is sweeping the Arab world.”

March 29, 2011
The Syrian President I Know
By DAVID W. LESCH, San Antonio, Tex.

WHERE has President Bashar al-Assad of Syria been this past week?

Thousands of Syrians across the country have staged demonstrations against the government, and dozens of protesters have been reported killed by security forces. The cabinet was dismissed on Tuesday, although that’s a meaningless gesture unless it’s followed by real reform. Through it all Mr. Assad has remained so quiet that rumors were rampant that he had been overthrown. But while Syrians are desperate for leadership, it’s not yet clear what sort of leader Mr. Assad is going to be.

Will he be like his father, Hafez al-Assad, who during three decades in power gave the security forces virtually a free hand to maintain order and sanctioned the brutal repression of a violent Islamist uprising in the early 1980s? Or will he see this as an opportunity to take Syria in a new direction, fulfilling the promise ascribed to him when he assumed the presidency upon his father’s death in 2000?

Mr. Assad’s background suggests he could go either way. He is a licensed ophthalmologist who studied in London and a computer nerd who likes the technological toys of the West; his wife, Asma, born in Britain to Syrian parents, was a banker at J. P. Morgan. On the other hand, he is a child of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the cold war. Contrary to American interests, he firmly believes Lebanon should be within Syria’s sphere of influence, and he is a member of a minority Islamic sect, the Alawites, that has had a chokehold on power in Syria for decades.

In 2004 and 2005, while writing a book on him, I had long interviews with Mr. Assad; after the book was published, I continued to meet with him as an unofficial liaison between Syria and the United States when relations between the two countries deteriorated. In that time I saw Mr. Assad evolve into a confident and battle-tested president.

I also saw him being consumed by an inert Syrian system. Slowly, he replaced those of questionable loyalty with allies in the military, security services and in the government. But he does not have absolute power. He has had to bargain, negotiate and manipulate pockets of resistance inside the government and the business community to bring about reforms, like allowing private banks and establishing a stock exchange, that would shift Syria’s socialist-based system to a more market-oriented economy.

But Mr. Assad also changed along the way. When I met with him during the Syrian presidential referendum in May 2007, he voiced an almost cathartic relief that the people really liked him. Indeed, the outpouring of support for Mr. Assad would have been impressive if he had not been the only one running, and if half of it wasn’t staged. As is typical for authoritarian leaders, he had begun to equate his well-being with that of his country, and the sycophants around him reinforced the notion. It was obvious that he was president for life. Still, I believed he had good intentions, if awkwardly expressed at times.

Even with the escalating violence there, it’s important to remember that Syria is not Libya and President Assad is not Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. The crackdown on protesters doesn’t necessarily indicate that he is tightening his grip on power; it may be that the secret police, long given too much leeway, have been taking matters into their own hands.

What’s more, anti-Assad elements should be careful what they wish for. Syria is ethnically and religiously diverse and, with the precipitous removal of central authority, it could very well implode like Iraq. That is why the Obama administration wants him to stay in power even as it admonishes him to choose the path of reform.

Today, President Assad is expected to announce that the country’s almost 50-year emergency law, used to stifle opposition to the regime, is going to be lifted. But he needs to make other tough choices, including setting presidential term limits and dismantling the police state. He can change the course of Syria by giving up that with which he has become so comfortable.

The unrest in Syria may have afforded President Assad one last chance at being something more than simply Hafez al-Assad’s son.

David W. Lesch, a professor of Middle East history at Trinity University, is the author of “The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria.”

The Syrian Time Bomb

Forget Libya. Washington should pay closer attention to the violent protests imperiling the Assad regime in Damascus. If there’s one country where unrest could truly set the Middle East alight, it’s Syria.

Foreign Policy

While one war rages in Libya, another rages in Washington as to the necessity of U.S. action there. Indeed, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said as much this weekend, noting that Libya was not a “vital national interest.” But if Washington is looking for an Arab state in the throes of unrest, one that is key to its regional and national interests, planners might want to pay more attention to Syria, which is currently undergoing upheaval not seen since the early 1980s.

Syria lies at the center of a dense network of Middle East relationships, and the crisis in that country — which has now resulted in the deaths of well over 100 civilians, and possibly close to double that number — is likely to have a major impact on the regional structure of power. The need to contain pressure from the United States and Israel, for decades the all-consuming concern of Syria’s leadership, has suddenly been displaced by an explosion of popular protest highlighting urgent and long-neglected domestic issues.

If the regime fails to tame this domestic unrest, Syria’s external influence will inevitably be enfeebled, with dramatic repercussions across the Middle East. As the crisis deepens, Syria’s allies tremble. Meanwhile, its enemies rejoice, as a weakened Syria would remove an obstacle to their ambitions. But nature abhors a vacuum, and what will come will be unpredictable, at best.

The protests started in mid-March in Daraa, in southern Syria, a city that has suffered from drought and neglect by the government in Damascus. The heavy hand of the ruling Baath party was particularly resented. Because it lies on the border with Jordan, and therefore in a security zone, all land sales required the security services’ approval, a slow and often costly business. This is one of the particular grievances that have powered the protest movement, though certainly the ripples of the successful Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings played a hand. The government, to put it bluntly, responded poorly. Troops in Daraa fired live rounds against youthful demonstrators and virtually all communications — Internet and telephone — were shuttered to prevent the seepage of unrest.

To make matters worse, Damascus blamed Israeli provocateurs, rebel forces, and shady foreign agents for the bloodshed — anyone but its own forces. Civilian deaths at the hands of security forces there, and more recently in the coastal city of Latakia, have outraged opinion across the country, setting alight long pent-up anger at the denial of basic freedoms, the monopolistic rule of the Baath party, and the abuses of a privileged elite. To these ills should be added severe youth unemployment, devastation of the countryside by a grave shortage of rainfall over the past four years, and the impoverishment of the middle and lower classes by low wages and high inflation.

In response to the public unrest, the regime has released some political prisoners and pledged to end the state of emergency in force since 1963. A government spokeswoman has hinted that coming reforms will include greater freedom for the press and the right to form political parties. President Bashar al-Assad is due to address the country in the next 48 hours. His speech is eagerly awaited, but it remains to be seen whether it will be enough to defuse the crisis and win time for the regime. If not, demonstrations could gather pace, triggering still more violent repression by the security services — an escalation with unpredictable consequences.

The protesters have in fact challenged the fundamentals of Syria’s security state, a harsh system of controls over every aspect of society, put in place by the late Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, who ruled for 30 years from 1970 to his death in 2000. By all accounts, the debate about how to deal with the growing protests has led to increasingly violent confrontations inside the regime between would-be reformers and hard-liners. The outcome of this internal contest remains uncertain.

What is certain, however, is that what happens in Syria is of great concern to the whole region. Together with its two principal allies, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Lebanese Shiite resistance movement Hezbollah, Syria is viewed with great hostility by Israel and with wary suspicion by the United States. The Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah axis — of which Syria is the linchpin — has long been seen by many leaders in the region as the lone bulwark against Israeli and American hegemony. With backing from Washington, Israel has sought to smash Hezbollah (notably through its 2006 invasion of Lebanon) and detach Syria from Iran, a country Israel views as its most dangerous regional rival. Neither objective has so far been realized. But now that Syria has been weakened by internal problems, the viability of the entire axis is in danger — which could encourage dangerous risk-taking behavior by its allies as they seek to counter perceived gains by the United States and Israel.

If the Syrian regime were to be severely weakened by popular dissent, if only for a short while, Iran’s influence in Arab affairs would almost certainly be reduced — in both Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. In Lebanon, it would appear that Hezbollah has already been thrown on the defensive. Although it remains the most powerful single movement, both politically and on account of its armed militia, its local enemies sense a turning of the tide in their favor. This might explain a violent speech delivered earlier this month by the Sunni Muslim leader and former prime minister Saad Hariri, in which he blatantly played the sectarian card.

Cheered by his jubilant supporters, he charged that Hezbollah’s weapons were not so much a threat to Israel as to Lebanon’s own freedom, independence, and sovereignty — at the hand of a foreign power, namely Iran. The Syrian uprisings may have already deepened the sectarian divide in Lebanon, raising once more the specter of civil war and making more difficult the task of forming a new government, a job President Michel Suleiman has entrusted to the Tripoli notable, Najib Mikati. If Syria were overrun with internal strife, Hezbollah would be deprived of a valuable ally — no doubt to Israel’s great satisfaction.

Meanwhile, Turkey is deeply concerned by the Syrian disturbances: Damascus has been the cornerstone of Ankara’s ambitious Arab policy. Turkey-Syria relations have flourished in recent years as Turkey-Israel relations have grown cold. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, have actively sought to mediate local conflicts and bring much-needed stability to the region by forging close economic links. One of their bold projects is the creation of an economic bloc comprising Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan — already something of a reality by the removal of visa requirements as well as by an injection of Turkish investment and technological know-how. A power struggle in Syria could set back this project; and regime change in Damascus would likely put a serious dent in further Turkish initiatives.

Turkey’s loss, however, may turn out to be Egypt’s gain. Freed from the stagnant rule of former President Hosni Mubarak, Cairo is now expected to play a more active role in Arab affairs. Instead of continuing Mubarak’s policy, conducted in complicity with Israel, of punishing Gaza and isolating its Hamas government, Egypt is reported to be pushing for a reconciliation of the rival Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah. If successful, this could help defuse the current dangerous escalation of violence between Israel on the one side and Hamas and still more extreme Gaza-based Palestinian groups on the other. But Syria’s internal troubles might just as easily have a negative effect.

Undoubtedly, the failed peace process has bred extreme frustration among Palestinian militants, some of whom may think that a sharp shock is needed to wrench international attention away from the Arab democratic wave and back to the Palestine problem. They are anxious to alert the United States and Europe to the danger of allowing the peace process to sink into a prolonged coma. Israeli hard-liners, too, may calculate that a short war could serve their purpose: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government may sense weakness and quietly dream of finishing off Hamas once and for all. Syria has been a strong supporter of Hamas and has given a base in Damascus to the head of its political bureau, Khaled Mashal. Turmoil in Damascus could deal Hamas a severe blow.

On all these fronts — Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel — Syria is a key player. But its internal problems now threaten to reshuffle the cards, adding to the general sense of insecurity and latent violence in the region. And of all the threats facing the Middle East, perhaps the greatest — greater even than of another Arab-Israeli clash — is that of rampant sectarianism, poisoning relationships between and within states, and breeding hate, intolerance, and mistrust.

Several of the modern states of the Middle East — and Syria is no exception — were built on a mosaic of ancient religions, sects, and ethnic groups held uneasily and sometimes uncomfortably together by central government. But governments have themselves been far from neutral, favoring one community over another in cynical power plays. Many Sunni Muslims in Syria and throughout the region feel that Assad’s Syria has unduly favored the Alawites, a sect of Shiite Islam, who constitute some 12 percent of the population but control a vastly greater percentage of the country’s wealth. Open conflict between Sunnis and Alawites in Syria would profoundly disturb the whole region, creating a nightmare scenario for Washington and other Western capitals.

Meanwhile, Washington seems at a loss as to how to respond to the growing unrest in Syria. In tempered language, the administration has condemned the use of violence against civilians and encouraged political reform. But the undertones are evident: Stability in Syria may still preferable to yet another experiment in Arab governance. Assad will need to act quickly and decisively — and one hopes not harshly — to quell the rising current of dissent. Indeed, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed to offer the regime some modest support this weekend, noting that she believed Bashar to be a “reformer.” But reform has never been a primary goal of the Assad clan, which has long favored stability over change.

This edifice may now be crumbling, and the United States would be wise to spend a little less time thinking about Libya and a little more time thinking about a state that truly has implications on U.S. national interests. If things go south in Syria, blood-thirsty sectarian demons risk being unleashed, and the entire region could be consumed in an orgy of violence.

Simon Tisdall
30 March 2011,Guardian
The Syrian president’s televised address to the nation could be a moment of opportunity or a fatal step in his fall from grace
Bashar al-Assad’s address to the nation is easily the biggest moment of his young political life. Syria has faced multiple crises during the president’s 11-year rule, including a massive refugee influx after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the 2004 Kurdish uprising, a rift with Lebanon after the Hariri assassination in 2005 and Israel’s bombing of a supposed nuclear reactor in 2007. But none seriously threatened the 45-year-old Assad’s grip on power, nor the survival of the regime. This is different.
The protests that have shaken Syrian towns and cities in recent days are unprecedented in both scale and character. In many ways, they resemble the Egyptian and other Arab revolts – a roar of rage against lack of economic opportunity, a youthful population’s limited life chances, the lack of personal and social freedoms and the dead weight of official corruption. But there are differences, too. Syria’s regime, more than most, has relied on absolute obedience, enforced by a terrifying security apparatus. Dissent was not tolerated. The change now is that dissent has become open, pervasive and unquenchable. Dissent is a firestorm, burning up all Syria’s old certainties in its path.
“What we have in Syria is not yet a revolution. It is unrest in pursuit of legitimate reform,” a Syrian official said. “Assad is a popular president. If there was a vote tomorrow, I think he would win 60% or maybe more. We have the problem of economic corruption but not political corruption. Assad has a lot of credit in the bank. He needs to cash it in or else we are heading for the unknown … Whatever happens, Syria has changed. The wall of fear for expressing your views has collapsed.”
It’s certainly true Assad is no Hosni Mubarak, the octogenarian Egyptian president who came to symbolise a nation’s ossification. He has often spoken of reform and, briefly, during the so-called Damascus spring of 2000-01 following the death of his ultra-authoritarian father, Hafez, Syrian society seemed ready to break free from its historical and geographical shackles. The fact it did not was attributable in part to the baleful influence of the old guard inherited from his father.
All the same, Assad’s failure to bring about change was ultimately his own, raising doubts about his political courage and judgment. His apparent inability to modernise Syria’s economy, his continued reliance on emergency laws enacted by the Ba’ath party after the 1963 coup and the ongoing lack of political pluralism and media freedom poses the question: why should anyone believe him now when, back to the wall, he once again promises reforms? Has he left it too late?
Assad’s decision to sack his cabinet, even as pro-regime protesters filled the streets of many cities, may help answer these doubts – and help him achieve a clean break with Assad Sr’s era. But in his televised speech he will need to go further. His task is to convince the majority of Syrians who, if officials are to be believed, want reform rather than regime change, that the country can make a new beginning, that a new order is finally replacing the old.
“The security forces made great mistakes in Deraa [the southern city where the unrest began and more than 60 protesters were killed]. Instead of trying to find a solution, they were shooting in the square. For that reason, the president has ordered a halt to all violence by the security forces,” said Sami Khiyami, Syria’s ambassador in London. “The president intends to rectify these mistakes.”
His speech would include repeal of the emergency law, a stepped-up campaign against corruption and orders to the security forces “not to harm people freely expressing their views”, he said. Other reports suggest curbs on opposition political parties and media will be relaxed and political prisoners freed.
Khiyami insisted there was substance to regime claims that small groups of agitators, mostly foreign-backed, were responsible for provoking the most serious clashes. These groups included Islamist extremists from the indigenous Sunni majority, Syrian Kurds, and Iraqi, Lebanese and Algerian immigrants whose “agenda” was stirring up sectarian tension, he said. Their activities lay behind the recent violence in Latakia where 10 police were killed and 300 people arrested. Khiyami added that Syria remained the most secular, multi-ethnic and religiously tolerant country in the Middle East – and that outside powers were intent on undermining it.
Assad’s failure so far to pursue a reform agenda, and the crisis confronting him now, could be laid in part at the door of the US, Israel and European countries that were hostile to Syria and had weakened it through economic sanctions and trade embargoes, Khiyami said. Syria was a proud, dignified country that was “difficult to tame”. Despite what they claimed, the great powers would actually prefer the Middle East to remain a “buffer zone” between the west and Asia, an excluded, unrepresented, under-performing, second-class region with no real say in international affairs, he said.
Whatever the reasons, and they are many, Assad faces a great reckoning when he steps up to speak. It could be a moment of unparalleled opportunity. Or it could prove to be a fatal next phase in his inexorable fall from grace.     guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2011

Time running out for Assad’s reformist image
By Roula Khalaf in London
Published: March 28 2011

Since inheriting the Syrian presidency 11 years ago, Bashar al-Assad has cultivated the persona of a young reformer whose ambitions have been frustrated by internal and external pressure.

With a glamorous ex-banker wife at his side – Asma al-Assad was featured in a glowing portrait in Vogue in February – he has persuaded some Syrians and outsiders of a seemingly contradictory position: that he is in full charge of the country and yet not responsible for its police state.

Today, as the wave of Arab uprisings reaches Syria, with protests last week that left at least 60 people dead, political activists say Mr Assad faces perhaps his last chance to release the reform-minded personality his supporters claim has been repressed.

“The line of the government for the past 10 years is that the president is not to blame because people are obstructing him and that his image is separated from the regime,” says Obaida Nahas, an exiled dissident. “Now that image is being confused and he needs to show that there is a difference between him and the regime.”….

In the unrest that first erupted in the southern tribal town of Deraa but spread last week to big cities across the country, the main slogan has been a call for freedom. Though there have been incidents in which Mr Assad’s portraits were torn down, the main targets of the people’s rage have been Assad family members, rather than the president himself.

“The idea is still that he has the opportunity to be proactive,” says a political analyst close to the government. “Syria is on a knife edge and needs to do something drastic to move away from the crisis.”

Whether the 45-year-old Mr Assad – an eye doctor who had little political experience before being elevated to the presidency upon the death of his father Hafez – ever had reformist leanings is far from clear…..

Political activists say Syrians are enraged by state corruption and the arbitrary behaviour of the intelligence and security services. Weeks before Deraa residents took to the streets to protest against the arrest of schoolchildren accused of writing anti-regime slogans on the walls, a dispute between a policeman and a driver in a Damascus Hariqa market had underlined the depth of frustrations…..

“The country is a powder keg, there is an accumulation of grievances,” says Haitham Maleh, a human rights lawyer. “The president has been studying decisions for the past 10 years. Now he has to take action.”

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Comments (51)

JH said:

Dear Alex,

In reply to your comments on the previous post; I have a great deal of sympathy for your position that Bashar should be given time, that he may be the most likely available candidate to lead Syria forward, and that the result of his reforms should be as you and Ehsani envisage.

However, the problem with this solution is that we are not able to ensure that Bashar will do any of these things, or that his efforts to do them will not be corrupted and diluted over time, whether by himself or by others. We are left in the position of hoping, and perhaps even (in the case of this blog!) advising. This is a position on the sidelines occupied for millennia by courtiers and advisers to kings and authoritarian rulers.

I firmly believe that human beings are incapable of remaining in positions of political power for long periods without becoming corrupt and then inevitably damaging the societies they seek to rule, and perhaps even seek to protect and develop. The inevitable process of corruption, rooted as it is in the certainty at all levels that one’s position is safe, leads to the Kafkaesque situation in which citizens are forced to struggle and fight with the system just to avoid being actively damaged by it (as Azmi Bishara explained in his usual eloquent style in the video aptly posted above). Economic dynamism and development as envisaged by Ehsani and others is impossible.

Take the United Kingdom. Tony Blair (for whom I voted for as the most left-wing(!) alternative available) had, by the end of his time in office, developed a fully-fledged messiah complex after leading us through a (temporary!) period of economic growth and into horrific, damaging and immoral Middle Eastern conflicts. He was absolutely certain of his own justice and judgement, was in full control of the state, and had won an election with a minority of the overall vote in the face of huge protests against the Iraq war. Had it not been for the democratic mechanism that forced him to leave office, I am sure that he would have stayed, and the layers of the state would have become first complacent and then gradually corrupt. Officials at all levels would have realised that they depended on patronage from above and that the people below them had no power at all, and they would have acted accordingly. English people are no better or worse, no more or less political or ethical, than Syrian people, and we would in time have been living under something like Bashar’s regime.

The democratic mechanism did not deliver us an improvement on Tony Blair’s policies, it has instead given us a group of incredibly rich and privileged men who are dismantling the services and investments that made a huge difference to the North of England I grew up in, while also eagerly starting to bomb another Middle Eastern country.

The only thing the mechanism did was prevent Blair turning into Bashar, and it will in turn prevent Cameron turning into Chavez. That is why it is the least worst mechanism available; not a panacea but the only real option on the table. Bashar needs to face his people at the ballot box.

March 30th, 2011, 2:54 am


Nour said:

I must say, I was disappointed with the speech. There was nothing substantive at all. All this build-up for no reason. And those members of the majles el shaab are a joke. It is utterly embarassing for them to prostrate themselves in such a manner. All in all I feel like we were completely let down.

March 30th, 2011, 8:25 am


majedkhaldoon said:

EMPTY speeach,it was not what everyone expected, he procrastinate, gave the impression it may be done after the election, or longer,he was nervous he did not show leadership, he is not at the level of this crisis,
Extremwely diosappointed, but we never expect dictator to lead reform

March 30th, 2011, 8:40 am


nafdik said:

Today the ugly face of dictatorship is on display. Complete with fear of mouamarat, poetry in the parlement, million man marches, nafdik and ila elabad.

Bashar is signaling that he is ready for mass murder.

It seems this regime has decided to go the way of Quaddafi. I fear that Syrians are not prepared for such a battle.

March 30th, 2011, 8:50 am


FreeSoldier said:

Funny, but watching the speech reminded me of Moubarak first speech. Reality and perception are on different universe.

Again, to believe that the current goverments in the Middle East are capable of reform is utter lunacy.

Chapter one is over. Chapter two is about to begin.

March 30th, 2011, 9:10 am


norman said:

Apparently he was worry that speedy reform will be explained as a weak leadership,that will embolden the opposition into asking for more and he saw what happened to Mubarak and Ben Ali, forty years of police state and security can not be dismantled with one speech , we should all understand that rebound affair never lasts,give him some time, I am willing to do that .slow reform is better than no reform or a civil war.

March 30th, 2011, 9:20 am


Ziad said:

Saddened, disillusioned, and disappointed .

March 30th, 2011, 9:40 am


Vedat The Turk said:

Bashar is a weak leader who is out of touch with what is going on. Just last month he was claiming in the WSJ that he was too popular among Syrians for them to revolt. 300 dead protestors later and he now claims that it is a foreign conspiracy that is at play!

It seems that the more he rules the further isolated he becomes. It is now only a matter of time.

March 30th, 2011, 9:56 am


gk said:

He is still in denial or blaming the others!!! It is the Syrian people in Syria not outside to decide what should be next!!! Freedom is not awarded to people, it is earned by working hard and sacrifice. May Allah assist the Syrian people who are eager to taste freedom and who want to get rid of corruption!

March 30th, 2011, 9:58 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

20 minutes about Zionists, plots, plotters, Israel…
Zero minutes about Syria, reforms and the future of Syrians.

March 30th, 2011, 10:00 am


Così parlo Bashar al Assad : invisiblearabs said:

[…] alla raccomandazione di cercare su twitter informazioni mettendo il tag #Syria, ecco il link a un post del sito di Joshua Landis, uno degli esperti di Siria. Raccoglie gli ultimi articoli usciti sulla […]

March 30th, 2011, 10:00 am


Off The Wall said:

You would have tarred and feathered your city council member for far less.

March 30th, 2011, 10:03 am


Sami dibbs said:

The speech by president Assad was generic and disappointed most people. The so-called Majles Al-Shaab is a major joke and should be dissolved. Today was not a good day unless Asad decided to talk less and do more,but I am not sure that is the case. I feel Syrians did not get what they want after being patient for 41 years.

March 30th, 2011, 10:16 am


norman said:

Reform is coming but not under the gun, he will be swept a way by his own people if he changes everything with one speech, give him a couple of months, he was courageous not to talk the talk then not walk the walk, i would rather see changes than talking about the changes that he is planning . ,

March 30th, 2011, 10:20 am


atassi said:

WSJ UPDATE: Syria’s Assad Ends Speech Without Pledge For Major Reform
By Farnaz Fassihi
30 March 2011
Dow Jones News Service
(c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Syria’s President Bashar Assad offered no concrete concessions in a much anticipated speech to the parliament on Wednesday and blamed foreign enemies for plotting unrest in Syria through a series of anti-government demonstrations in the past two weeks.

“I’m addressing you during extraordinary events, we are facing a test of our unity,” Mr. Assad said at the start of his speech. “But we will be successfully overcome it.”

Mr. Assad, to the astonishment of many observers and opponents, refused to neither detail the government’s promised reform plans nor a timetable for when those reforms would go into effect.

“We want to expedite not hasten reform,” Mr. Assad, wearing a navy suit and a blue-tie said to a cheering parliament. “This is not enough but we are not going to destroy our nation.”

(This story and related background material will be available on The Wall Street Journal website, WSJ.com.)

Mr. Assad appeared open-minded yet firm. He admitted a few times that his government had not fulfilled the pledges of reform and that the public was disappointed. Yet, he justified the delays to other priorities and even compared the lifting emergency law to providing medical care for a sick child.

At times Mr. Assad was cheerful smiling, laughing and cracking jokes about foreign news channels that he said were making up lies and distorting facts to sew unrest in his country.

He devoted a considerable amount of time to his theory about how Syria is a victim of a sophisticated and clever foreign plot disguised as pro-democracy demonstrations. He attacked the U.S. on two occasions, saying it placed pressure on Syria to reform in 2005 and that in invading Iraq the U.S. had hoped it would set forth a domino effect but it had done the opposite.

During the hour-long speech he was interrupted a few times by parliamentarians, both men and women, who stood up and dramatically sang his praise.

“You represent not only Syria but the entire Arab world,” said one parliamentarian clad in traditional Arabic tribal attire.

The speech was a major disappointment for dissidents and activists hoping that more than a week of unrest would amount to some concrete change in Syrian politics. Syrians were hoping to hear Mr. Assad announce some concrete plans and action.

Last Thursday, his government had announced it would revoke the emergency law in place for nearly 50 years, increase wages for public workers and open up the media.

Mr. Assad, speaking in general terms, said these reform measures were already put forth in draft bills and that the government would now debate them. He said this was not as a result of pressure but due to public awareness about reforms.

“This is very disappointing; worse than I imagined,” said one young unemployed man in Damascus. “It reconfirms my suspicions that reforms will not–and cannot–be made by this regime.”

March 30th, 2011, 10:27 am


Off The Wall said:

It does not matter whether I am willing to give two months or an additional 120 Monts. Please address your comment to those who have the power to decide, the Syrian People on the inside. If they felt that he was sincere and genuine, then be it. If not, they will know what to do.

March 30th, 2011, 10:29 am


atassi said:

Syria’s Assad warns of ‘conspiracy’, fails to lift emergency
Natacha Yazbeck
656 words
30 March 2011
Agence France Presse

President Bashar al-Assad Wednesday blamed conspirators for unrest sweeping Syria but failed to lift emergency rule or offer other concessions in his first speech since pro-reform protests erupted two weeks ago.

In a highly anticipated address to parliament that lasted almost one hour, Assad warned Syria’s “enemies” were targetting its unity but made no mention of any plans to lift the state of emergency.

“We are all for reform. That is the duty of the state. But we are not for strife,” Assad said.

“Reform is not a trend,” he added. “When the people demand their rights, it is the state’s duty to fulfil their demands.

“What we should watch out for is starting reforms under these circumstances right now, this passing wave.”

Presidential adviser Buthaina Shaaban had told AFP on Sunday that Syria had decided to lift emergency rule, which has been in force in the country since 1963, but could not elaborate on the “time frame.” Assad is the only one empowered to lift the emergency rule.

Assad, who appeared relaxed and exchanged jokes with parliamentarians, echoed that statement on Wednesday.

“The measures announced Thursday were not made suddenly,” he said. “The emergency law and political parties law have been under study for a year.

“There are more, unannounced reforms … but giving a timeframe is a logistic matter,” Assad added. “When we announce it in such circumstances, it is difficult to meet that deadline.”

Assad, who succeeded his father Hafez al-Assad in 2000, has come under unprecedented domestic pressure over the past two weeks, with protesters defying emergency rule in public protests, emboldened by uprisings in the Arab world.

Assad, who warned Syria was going through a “test of unity,” said his country’s enemies had taken advantage of the needs of the people to incite strife in Syria, a regional foe of Washington’s ally Israel.

“I know that the Syrian people have been awaiting this speech since last week, but I was waiting to get the full picture… to avoid giving an emotional address that would put the people at ease but have no real effect, at a time when our enemies are targeting Syria,” said the 45-year-old leader.

“This conspiracy is different in shape and timing from what is going on in the Arab world,” he added. “Syria is not isolated from the region… but we are not a copy of other countries.”

Assad was widely expected to elaborate on a string of reforms announced last week, which came in response to the protests demanding more freedoms in the country ruled by the Baath party since 1963.

It is difficult to say how protesters and critics of Assad — who said his country “will prevail” — in the West will respond to Wednesday’s speech.

Facebook group The Syria Revolution 2011 has called for more demonstrations at mosques across Syria on Friday until all their demands are met.

The wave of protests, which began on March 15, were quickly contained in Damascus by security forces, before taking root in the southern tribal region of Daraa and the multi-confessional coastal city of Latakia in the north.

Daraa has sustained the most casualties, with activists estimating at least 100 people killed on Wednesday last week in clashes with security forces.

Syrian rights activists have accused security forces of killing 130 people in the crackdown, while Amnesty International says upward of 55 people have been killed. Officials put the toll at some 30 killed.

Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otri tendered his government’s resignation on Tuesday and now acts in a caretaker capacity.

A new cabinet is expected to be announced by the end of the week.

Authorities have accused fundamentalists and “armed gangs” of aiming to incite unrest in the country, particularly Daraa and Latakia, which emerged as the focal points of dissent.

March 30th, 2011, 10:37 am


Majhool said:

Sad, troubling, and disgusting…

March 30th, 2011, 10:42 am


atassi said:

Syria poses new dilemma for Sarkozy
31 March 2011
The Korea Herald
(c) 2011 The Korea Herald

PARIS (Reuters) ― French President Nicolas Sarkozy has stolen the international limelight with his bravura intervention in Libya but he may find it trickier to deal with the gathering crisis in Syria.

It was Sarkozy after all who ended Syria’s international isolation when he feted President Bashar al-Assad in a visit to Paris in 2008. Assad was given the seat of honour at Bastille Day celebration, marking the moment at which Assad’s Baathist regime was accepted back into the international community.

Nobody sees France or any other Western power wanting to start another military campaign. Yet Sarkozy has set a precedent that puts him under pressure to take an equally firm hand on the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in the former French colony.

More than 60 people have been killed in towns across Syria as demonstrations have spread in recent days, prompting Assad to send the army out on the street as he faces the gravest crisis in his 11-year rule.

Sarkozy ― who grabbed control of the world response to the Libyan crisis to reassert France’s influence in North Africa after its clumsy handling of revolts in Tunisia and Egypt ― must come up with a smart strategy on Syria or lose his new kudos, analysts say.

“He can’t go out on several fronts at once, and the front where he is engaged is starting to show the difficulties of such an operation,” said North Africa expert Christian Bouquet at the University of Bordeaux III.

“On the ground Sarkozy has stated, human rights and democracy, there should be interventions in several countries including Syria, and Ivory Coast, but he would not be able to mobilize the international community … and there would be a hierarchy problem of where he should go first.”

The tensions in Syria have not reached the level they did in Libya when Sarkozy called the emergency summit that launched air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s troops.

Syria’s ties with Iran and the fact it borders Israel, Iraq and Turkey would make military action an undesirable option, especially given the high risk of repercussions from groups like the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement or Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The United States has already played down the possibility of a military solution in Syria and France, as its colonial power until 1946, would also be reluctant to use force.

“Iran is very involved with this regime. Iran would defend it with all means possible,” said Antoine Basbous, head of the Paris-based Observatory of Arab countries.

“What’s at stake if the Syrian regime falls is not just a matter of Syria internally, the stakes are above all geopolitical ones on regional scale.”

In recent days, Sarkozy has slammed Assad’s hard line on protesters, saying every Arab ruler should understand that it was unacceptable to have the army fire live shots at protesters.

Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, brought in to rebrand French diplomacy after his predecessor quit over her Tunisia blunders, urged Damascus to listen to the voice of dialogue and democracy.

Sarkozy is in a tight spot because of the hero’s welcome he gave Assad at the Mediterranean summit in Paris in 2008, an event that reset Syrian relations with Europe after years of isolation for supporting terrorism.

Much like Gaddafi, who Sarkozy received on a grandiose state visit in 2007, Assad was persona-non-grata until the Paris meeting sealed a new detente with the West.

The visit reset Franco-Syrian relations, strained since the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, which Paris believed was orchestrated from Damascus.

It will be hard for Sarkozy to turn against somebody he so publicly backed, even if his turnaround on Gaddafi shows he can ditch old friends if they prove too unsavory.

What is sticky for Sarkozy today is that somebody he met several times and lauded as a reformer has ended up keeping Syria’s authoritarian political system intact.

Assad’s Baath party allows no meaningful opposition and the Assad family, members of the prominent minority Alawite sect, controls much of Syria’s economy. That said, Assad could still be a better bet for the West than a rashly decided replacement.

“Previously, there was cautious language towards Syria; it was an effort to offer an olive branch because we were hoping for results, but things have changed since then,” a French diplomatic source said.

Most observers see Sarkozy continuing to use strong but measured diplomatic language on Syria and perhaps pushing for U.N. sanctions as a second step, as he did last week with Nigeria over Ivory Coast’s incumbent leader.

That could meet with opposition from China and Russia, which in turn could raise more questions about how the U.N. Security Council can respond to fast-moving crises, said Bouquet .

“Everything that’s happened in the past three months raises the question of how the U.N. is organized, how it can react and be effective. If Sarkozy wants to advance things, he must first pose that underlying question before focusing on specific cases,” he said.

“If Sarkozy is cunning,” he added, “He will hide behind the U.N.’s double entendres to avoid having to intervene right away in a hot spot like Syria.”

March 30th, 2011, 10:46 am


norman said:

I guess , Will see .

March 30th, 2011, 11:10 am


norman said:

This is what my uncle said,

Here is my opinion on Assad’s long awaited speech this morning:
I was disappointed.
Like many previous speeches in the past decade: Yes, we need reform, we are going to legislate reform.
WHAT reform, WHEN? I’ll tell you later.
What after another decade?
In my opinion he has to move within days not months or years, or it will be too late. The World is watching, and a mixture of sincere on one hand and conspirers on the other are waiting, and are not going to let this opportunity of the historical events in the middle east pass them by.

March 30th, 2011, 11:19 am


nafdik said:

I can not get over the humiliating site of our parliament cheering the president as if they were primary school students in the 80s.

Bashar has again insulted the Syrian people, by organizing the festival like menhebbak masirat after more than 100 Syrians were killed under his command, and by staging this charade in our parliament.

Furthermore he has clearly shown that he is disconnected from the truth or oblivious to it. Such disconnection or disregard is what allows dictators to commit mass murder. Today he convinced me that he is able and ready to commit another Hama to stay in power.

March 30th, 2011, 11:28 am


NK said:

In case anyone missed it

I said yesterday he will deliver 0 reforms after yesterday’s demonstrations and I was right, the parliament message was clear “بايعناك و نبايعك الى الابد”, the chants were disgusting. For an MP to say “الى الابد” is the lowest of the low, it’s a betrayal to all Syrians and I guess the people will answer all those dimwits sooner than they think, “بالروج بالدم” in the parliament … تفو.

As for the speech, he basically hinted all those “promises” will be presented to the NEW parliament for debate and to set a time table. He also said reform was hindered because we HAD a few corrupt in the regime and we don’t have those anymore. WOW, just WOW.

Anyways, I’m pretty convinced now that this regime is not capable and doesn’t want reform, all it can do is deliver empty promises, will those millions who took to the streets yesterday be content with that ? Friday will tell.

March 30th, 2011, 11:34 am


Ziadsoury said:

Nour, Ziad,

Thanks for being honest.

Please wake up. These people are not capable of any reform. It is not a weakness when you respond to the will of your people. It is the opposite. It gives you legitimacy. Let’s stop blaming others and focus on the real issues. The narrative that you can rule your people for ever is over.

We have problems and we are trying to fix them. What are you doing about yours? Your country is an Apartheid state. Is the youth of Israel getting ready to change that? I am sure your usual leaders will blame the outside world too as they have been doing so far.

March 30th, 2011, 11:35 am


nafdik said:

Good factual interview with Joshua:

I still thinks he overplays the importance of the sunni elite. The revolution will come from the lower middle class and rural Syria IMO.

March 30th, 2011, 11:41 am


Ziad said:

Israel and its fools in Washington decide that they don’t have a viable replacement to Bashar at the moment. Clinton declares no military intervention, and Assad is a reformer. Bashar receives phone calls of support from Arab Kings. The disturbances in Dar’aa & Lathekia fizzle. The regime gets reassured and gains confidence after being shaken for few days. The pressure for reform lessens.

The pro regime demos were arranged to precede the speech. It is impossible to get these crowds after the speech.

The regime made a major psychological mistake by raising the expectation to a very high level. We shall see how the Syrian people will react to the situation, and Friday may be the day of reckoning.

March 30th, 2011, 11:43 am


NAJIB said:


So , was “.. There a Soft Landing for Syria?”
and Has Syria become a TRUE NATION for you?
it would be interesting to follow up on the ideas in that article now with hindsight ? unless you find the exercise embarrassing ?

on another subject, as a syrian, i have bad feeling about my country and people becoming the subject of study , research and opining of the Lesch, Tabler , Harling , Ignatius Lesch, Seale, Tisdall, Khalaf, Fadel , etc of this world , or the research departments of universities and think tanks …

all those who thrive and earn their living from other people’s pain & suffering.

they bring bad luck to any country they focus on.
may God spare us their attention !!

kind regards

March 30th, 2011, 11:51 am


Shami said:

Alex and Ave rroes would they add water in the wine again ?

March 30th, 2011, 11:58 am


trustquest said:

After his speech I wished I was a brain surgeon and can open the brains of all those members in the parliament during his speech, and measure there real thinking not what they pretend, I could have a best sellers. Let him say what ever he wants, the egg has cracked and he missed the chance to reduce the causalities…

March 30th, 2011, 12:07 pm


AIG said:


If the youth in my country do not like the government, they can vote for someone else. Israel is a democracy and power has changed hands peacefully many times. There is complete freedom of speech in Israel, nobody is jailed or imprisoned for stating his or her opinion. On many occasions some Arab members of the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) call Netanyahu a murderer or a fascist and nobody cares. When it becomes safe to call Bashar a murderer in the Syrian parliament, let me know. When you can have a anti-government newspaper, let me know. When the average Syrian has half the education, rights and prosperity of the average Arab Israeli, let me know. Yes, we can and should do more to advance equality, but calling Israel an apartheid country is ridiculous.

When 12% of the population rule over the other 88%, how is that not apartheid? The Alawite minority has put in place an apartheid state in Syria.

I wish that Syria soon becomes a democratic state that answers the aspirations of its people, and I wish this happens without violence. And then, if the Syrian people support it, we can have a meaningful discussion about peace and cooperation in the region. And if the Syrian people do not support such a discussion, which is of course their right, we will just wait patiently until trust is rebuilt.

March 30th, 2011, 12:16 pm


norman said:

The Peaceful demonstration,

قالت قناة الأخبارية السورية إن “هناك إطلاق نار كثيف من مسلحين ضد الجيش في اللاذقية”.

March 30th, 2011, 12:16 pm


Solitarius said:

Horrible.. he looked very weak and distraught. He looks pale and as if he lost weight.. is it just me or do u all see it?

he basically paved the road for more bloodshed.. and i was foolish enough to have some hopes… Syrians are doomed to this mentality of hoping for the savior character. Check our mythology for more information.

March 30th, 2011, 12:20 pm


NK said:

Al Jazeera reported it as, the Army opened fire to disperse crowds.

This on CNN

March 30th, 2011, 12:21 pm


why-discuss said:

Nafdik, Solitarius
In my view, Bashar would have been a fool to make important announcements during this speech ( such as cancellation of the emergency law .. syria’s patriot act etc..) We have seen Mobarak do that and it only raised more demands and precipitated his downfall.
If he had, everyone would have said that this is sign of weakness! Yet I think that by not giving a time table he maybe making a mistake, unless there is some cooking going on in background and Bashar has guarantees that there will be no more demonstrations to pressure him for these reforms too quickly.
The question will be: Would the syrian opposition give Bashar another chance with the risk of missing this golden opportunity to oblige him to concessions. I tend to believe that the violence that was displayed has frightened many opposition figures, especially the old ones and they may want to wait and see.
He did look tired…

March 30th, 2011, 12:31 pm


Averroes said:

Regardless of the content, and regardless that there may yet be reforms coming our way, I really did not like the presentation or the packaging. So many mistakes were made that did not have to be made. I am really disheartened.

Even if there are outside elements that need to be confronted, he should have been more sensitive to the people of the country.

I was hoping he would ask the people on the street to stop carrying his portrait, and to chant only for Syria. I was hoping for many things that he just poured cold water on.

The Majlis el Sha3b performance is despicable. I don’t know who invented this way of standing up and delivering poetry. It makes my stomach turn every time I have to see it.

March 30th, 2011, 12:32 pm


Ziadsoury said:


All new agencies are reporting the opposite. They are saying the army is firing on protestors.

the governor of Tartous in Syria is calling his employees
to rally everyone to support president Assad.

March 30th, 2011, 12:38 pm


why-discuss said:


“I wish that Syria soon becomes a democratic state that answers the aspirations of its people, and I wish this happens without violence”

It is the other way around : as long as there is no peace, I don’t expect to see true democracy in arab countries. The war situation give good excuses for leaders to have authoritarian regimes.

March 30th, 2011, 12:41 pm


why-discuss said:

Syrian Leader Blames Turmoil on ‘Conspiracy’ NY Times
“…Then after the speech, about 3,000 people marched in a separate demonstration through the northwestern town of Latakia to voice their opposition to Mr. Assad, and security forces opened fire. A witness said that at least two people had been killed and another wounded.”
Published: March 30, 2011

Any confirmation of that?

March 30th, 2011, 12:54 pm


Akbar Palace said:

The war situation give good excuses for leaders to have authoritarian regimes.


But it’s not used as an excuse in Israel. Why is that?

March 30th, 2011, 12:59 pm


norman said:

I do not know what to say , i do not want Syria to have violence and civil war, I want Reform but do not want anybody to be able to be elected , rules have to apply for eligibility , i hope he will move with deeds now that he did not seem to move with words,

2011-03-30 18:17:13

إصابة 3 أشخاص بجروح في تبادل لإطلاق نار بين قوات الأمن ومسلحين مجهولين

أصيب 3 أشخاص بجروح يوم الأربعاء في تبادل لإطلاق النار بين الجهات الأمنية ومسلحين مجهولين في دوار القطار في مدينة اللاذقية.

وقال رئيس منظومة الإسعاف السريع في اللاذقية الدكتور لؤي سعيد لسيريانيوز إن “3 أشخاص أصيبوا بأعيرة نارية في تبادل لإطلاق نار بين الجهات الأمنية ومسلحين”.

بدوره, أفاد مراسل سيريانيوز أن “الجهات الأمنية والجيش متمركز بدوار القطار والحرش والسكنتوري”.

وشهدت مدينة اللاذقية في الأيام القليلة الماضية أحداث اطلاق نار , أدت إلى سقوط أكثر من 12 شخصا بينهم 2 من المسلحين, وإصابة نحو 200 عنصر امن بجروح.

وكان الهدوء ساد مدينة اللاذقية في وقت سابق اليوم اغلب أحياء المدينة باستثناء حي الصليبي حيث بقي مجموعة من المعتصمين قدر عددهم بـ 100 شخص قاموا بإغلاق الحي بالمتاريس وحاويات القمامة وافترشوا الأرض”.

وأضاف المراسل انه “في الساعة العاشرة صباحا وصلت قوات حفظ النظام استعدادا لدخول الحي وإعادة الحياة إلى طبيعتها وسط مطالبة الأهالي”.

وتابع المراسل أن “الأجهزة الأمنية قامت فجر اليوم بالتجول في كافة أحياء المدينة وطالبت اللجان الشعبية الانسحاب من الشوارع وإزالة كافة الحواجز, ومع الصباح كانت الشوارع خالية تماما من كافة اللجان والحواجز، والأمر ذاته حدث في مدينة جبلة”.

وكان احد عناصر الأمن يدعى وائل سلامي لقي حتفه يوم الثلاثاء وأصيب اثنان آخران بجروح في تبادل لإطلاق النار مع مسلحين عند دوار الأزهري, فيما أصيب اثنان من المسلحين.

وانتشر الجيش في محيط مديرية مالية اللاذقية بعد محاولة شخص التسلل إلى البناء.

كما شهد الثلاثاء انطلاق تجمعين الاول انطلق من حي الصليبي والثاني من منطقة الحرش باتجاه قصر المحافظ وتجمعوا في الكورنيش الجنوبي والعدد كان حوالي 250 شخص.

وشهدت الايام الماضية اعمال تخريب كإحراق مرأب محطة قطار اللاذقية وبداخله سيارات حكومية, وإحراق المعهد الفندقي مقابل مدرسة شكري الحكيم, إحراق مركز سيرتيل, إحراق مخبر تحاليل طبية فوق مركز سيرتيل, تكسير 10 سيارات تابعة لمديرية مالية اللاذقية متوقفة امام مبنى المديرية, تحطيم زجاج كافة السيارات المتوقفة في قلب المدينة, واحراق باص كبير وبيك اب عدد2تابع لوزارة الداخلية.

وتعتبر هذه الاحداث الاولى من نوعها في تاريخ المدينة منذ عقود ، وتأتي على خلفية خروج مجموعات من المواطنين في المدينة كما في مدن اخرى من سوريا يرفعون بعض المطالب المعاشية ومطالب تتعلق بالحريات العامة.

وكانت الاحداث قد تركزت الاسبوع الماضي في محافظة درعا التي سقط فيها اكثر من 20 قتيل منذ بدأ حركة الاحتجاجات فيها.ترافقت هذه التحركات مع اعمال تخريب وحرق وقتل في اكثر من محافظة ، ونسبت هذه الاعمال الى “عصابات مسلحة وقوى خارجية تريد زعزعة استقرار سوريا” ، بحسب المصادر الرسمية.


سورية 2011-03-30 19:38:39
سورية الأسد
يا حبف….. يا خسارة…… ما معقول هيك… اناما كنت متوقعة هالشي يطلع أو يصير باللادقية… الله يحمي سورية وأهلها ويخلي الرئيس الأسد بخير ويقويه على من يعاديه يا رب…
copy rights © syria-news 2010

March 30th, 2011, 12:59 pm


why-discuss said:

President Assads defiant speech stuns Syrians who call for more protests – CSMonitor.com

March 30, 2011

In a long-awaited speech to the nation following multiple deadly protests this past week, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad failed to announce concrete changes or meet any of the protesters’ expectations.
Beirut, Lebanon

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad struck a defiant stance Wednesday, blaming “conspiracies” for two weeks of unprecedented antiregime protests and stopping short of offering a widely anticipated reform package.

The content of Mr. Assad’s first address since the unrest began dismayed the opposition, which had hoped that the president would reveal details of how he plans to reform the tightly policed state. Despite the government earlier this week dismissing the ruling cabinet and hinting at lifting the emergency law, Assad failed to announce concrete changes or meet any of the protesters’ expectations.

“We have returned to the point zero,” says Razan Zeitouneh, a human rights lawyer in Damascus.
Protests that erupted two weeks ago in the southern city of Deraa have since spread to cities around the country, including in the capital, sparking clashes with police that have killed more than 60 people. Regional neighbors have watched with trepidation, as the unrest could have major strategic ramifications for allies Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas.

Looking relaxed and smiling and chuckling frequently, Assad delivered his hour-long address to the Syrian parliament in a customary conversational tone. His statements were interrupted every few minutes by parliamentarians standing up and offering individual messages of support and loyalty. He entered and exited to a standing ovation, and was frequently interrupted with coordinated applause.

“Only God, Syria, and Bashar!” chanted the parliamentarians.
Assad says not all protesters are ‘conspirators’

“I am talking to you at an exceptional time. It is a test that happened to be repeated due to conspiracies against the country,” said Assad, who became president in 2000 on the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad. “God willing, we will overcome [this conspiracy].”

He acknowledged that reforms have been slow in coming, but he blamed the delay on traumatic distractions over the past decade, including the 2000-2005 Palestinian intifada, the September 2001 attacks, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Hezbollah-Israel war of 2006.

“We know we haven’t addressed many of the people’s aspirations,” he said, adding that not all those that have taken to the streets since March 15 were “conspirators.”

He said that Syria was heading toward “another phase” and admitted that proceeding without reforms “destroys the country.” He said that there would be new measures to combat corruption and “enhance national unity” and that the new government would announce them later. The previous government of Prime Minister Najib Ottari resigned Tuesday, and a new premier is yet to be named.

In keeping with past addresses at times of crisis, Assad gave away little in terms of what reforms the regime is considering to implement and when. “We want to speed [reforms] up, but not be [too] hasty,” he said.

Expectations dashed

Those words disappointed many. Protesters have been calling for the repeal of the emergency law that permits arrest without warrant and gives sweeping powers to the security apparatus, and also for the repeal of the political parties law that limits the formation of opposition groups.

“The emergency law and political parties law have been under study for a year,” Assad said today. “There are more, unannounced reforms… but giving a time frame is a matter of logistics.”

But even Syrian authorities and state-run media had indicated in recent days that Assad would use his address to announce a raft of reform proposals, including the repeal of the state of emergency law in place since 1963 and a loosening of media restrictions. The leaks of promised reforms ahead of the speech created a heightened sense of expectation that has been dashed by the vague content of the speech.

“It would have been better if he had said nothing than to raise everyone’s hopes beforehand only to crush them again,” says one Syrian activist who requested anonymity.
Protesters’ repeat demands

Radwan Ziadeh, a Washington-based Syrian human rights activist, said that Syrian opposition figures were in agreement on several key demands:

* a new democratic constitution
* ending the state of emergency
* release of all political prisoners
* a new political parties law
* reform of media laws
* a new elections law
* the formation of a truth and reconciliation committee to investigate past human rights abuses
* granting full political rights to Syrian Kurds
* restructuring the security and intelligence apparatus

Initial reactions carried by Twitter revealed considerable disappointment in Assad’s speech. “There’s nothing of substance here, nothing at all. Promising to do what he’s been saying he’ll do for 10 years already,” tweeted karimmb.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, tweeted “Short version Bashar speech: reforms maybe. Foreign conspiracies definitely. Satellite channels are bad.”

The Syria Revolution 2011 Facebook page called on protesters to take to the streets immediately following Assad’s speech. “Go down into the streets now and announce the uprising – control all the cities and declare civil disobedience from this moment onward,” it declared.

The question now is whether the opposition will redouble its efforts by escalating the unrest that has left dozens dead and shaken the country. A litmus test may occur in Friday, Islam’s holy day and usually a focal point for street demonstrations following noon prayers.

March 30th, 2011, 1:13 pm


Sophia said:

Bashar and the Ba’ath are not going to come down easily. Look at the map of the ME.
People can be disappointed and I am one of them. However, he did the sensible thing for the survival of Syria and the regime. Reforms under televised popular pressure are not genuine reforms. He might be seen as showing the ugly face of the regime but I will judge him from now on by how much action and reform he will put outside pressure, and of course on his human rights records.
He took notice and he should act to bring about much needed reforms, but you can’t ask him to do political suicide.

March 30th, 2011, 1:17 pm


AIG said:


That is Schoken’s opinion and he is entitled to it. He is just plain wrong. The fact that you point to an Israeli newspaper that writes this opinion only strengthens my point that Israel is a democratic country with freedom of speech.

Schoken does not like a particular law and wants it debated. He therefore resorts to sensationalism. No problem, it is his right. But it is not proof of anything. It is just like someone in the US writing that the Patriot Act makes the US a dictatorship.

March 30th, 2011, 1:23 pm


Ziadsoury said:


First, we have a dictatorship. All Syrians of all kinds of sects are abused even the 3alwaii ones if they do not follow the script and kiss ass.

Second, please recite to me your leaders from the last 15 years. If you do, we will see a gang of thugs take turn of the gang leadership. They all support the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in a very slow and deliberate way. To make it fun they form new parties and run for that party. It is a scam. Wakeup and do something about it. If you want peace you have to behave and act like it.

Last, enough about Israel. We have more important things to deal with. When we have real democracies in the ME, god helps Israel.


I want the same. Every life is precious. Notice that the west only respects the value of life in countries that their leaders value their people’s life. When we, Syrians leaders, value our own people’s life, everyone will do so.

March 30th, 2011, 1:24 pm


AIG said:

Why Discuss,

Nobody is buying anymore the propaganda that for democracy you need peace with Israel.

March 30th, 2011, 1:25 pm


SOURI said:

Good speech… but I hated the exaggerated Islamist tone in it…

Is this Islamist tone temporary or is it going to be Bashar’s norm from now on?

I think Bashar is not stupid like the other Arab presidents… he’s managing things well…

I just hope that he follows the Turkish model and not the Egyptian model… when the new party law comes out, Bashar must establish some secular Islamist party to absorb the moderate Islamists… the party should be kept in check so that it does not overshadow the Baath… Bashar must establish several Islamist parties to draw people away from the radical parties and to divide the Islamists as much as possible… this is the winning strategy…

March 30th, 2011, 1:35 pm


AIG said:


So let me understand, according to you if the Israeli government abused everybody in Israel that would be a better government than the one you call an “apartheid” one?

You don’t have to like our elected leaders, but they are elected democratically. If you want peace, then the elected representatives of Syria and Israel need to sit down and negotiate. Peace is not a one sided thing. It requires a compromise between two sides. When you get your democratic country, you can choose whether you want war or peace with Israel. I think for a few decades you will be more worried about economic development in Syria and not pursue war.

Lest there be any doubt, I wish that Syria become a democracy as soon as possible with the least violence as possible. The Syrian people deserve much better than what they are getting.

March 30th, 2011, 1:36 pm


majedkhaldoon said:

Farooq Al Shar3 said the president will say things it will satisfy every one.
B Sha3ban said that lifting the emergency law has been approved ,she said she witnessed that
Yet we heared nothing about that from Bashar,How are we going to believe them anymore.
Who else but Bashar is taking this good country of us,Syria to violence and death.
I expect the syrian who will demondtrate for freedom will be massacred

March 30th, 2011, 1:51 pm


NK said:


I’m not sure why you choose to link the survival of the regime with the survival of Syria, the well being of the regime does not equate to the well being of Syria, just look at the past decade or so, the regime was very strong and Syria was getting weaker by the day.
Everyone was expecting Bashar to lead a revolution against the regime, and boy did he come up short on that one.

“I will judge him from now on by how much action and reform he will put outside pressure, and of course on his human rights records.”
You can’t forget 11 years just like that, we’ve heard this exact talk about reform many times in the past, the clock did not reset today, this is bizarre. Plus, what do you mean outside pressure, there will always be pressure, we’ve been hearing about the horrible pressure hindering reform for a decade, it will always be there for the regime to blame, that’s not an acceptable excuse anymore.

March 30th, 2011, 2:01 pm


jad said:

From the beginning I had very low expectation and even with my close to zero expectation I was disappointed, not by the speech itself but by the fact that we don’t have any true politicians in our country anymore.
I really and truly appreciate that The President tried to be honest and frank with people in his speech; however, at these times we need a true politician not a humanitarian or idealistic person, a politician who can lead 23 millions of Syrians forward not to keep them inside the box.
Someone told me this story: Fares Alkhoury once said to a friend asking him to put a ‘Clean and Honest’ man in his government as a minister: “I’m more than happy to ask my daughter to marry this guy but won’t give him any political position.”
The speech could’ve been 10 min long and to the point without the need to over analyse anything.
YES, Syria is targeted, we all know that, YES, Syria needs to be upgraded on all levels, we also know that, YES, Syria is full of corruption, we know that too, YES, Syrians want more, YES, YES, YES…THEN? Any solutions, any promises? How are the government, the political parties and the ‘respected’ parliament are going to deal with all these things and above all where is the presidency stands regarding all these point represented? No time frame for anything at all?
This speech has more questions than answers, even the timing is confusing, at least let this over the top stupid MP’s sign couple laws of the most important one (Lifting the Emergency law and Political Party Law) earlier in the day and then give us the same speech and everybody would’ve been one notch happier.
I really hope that until tomorrow some action by the Parliament will take place or be announced like signing a decree of some sort just to prove that this speech wasn’t the only answer it was just the beginning of a real meaningful changes.
God bless and protect Syria and every Syrian.

March 30th, 2011, 2:58 pm


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