Sunday, July 24, 2011

Moment of Truth for Syria's Bashar Al-Assad
Middle East In Focus

Timely Articles

July 22, 2011

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As the Syrian government struggles to contain what is turning out to be a resilient opposition movement, many commentators and analysts are beginning to
consider the options left to the Assad regime. While some are clearly calling for it to get out of the way, others are quick to point out that a lasting
solution must be the result of a dialogue between the opposition and the regime.

Saudi Gazette editorial
criticizes the recent move of Syrian forces against Homs, one of the opposition’s strongholds: “The choice of Homs as a focal point for Syrian forces to
combat the anti-Assad protest movement that has swept the country may strike Syrian authorities as mandatory, given the high degree of anti-Assad activism
that has embroiled the city. As a public relations move, however, it is disastrous and will most certainly add to the Syrian government’s deteriorating
image on the international stage. It is also likely to spur even more protests against the Assad regime.... That is just another miscalculation on the
part of the Syrian government. Under such circumstances, government sources of information will be the most doubted. Just another instance of Syria shooting
itself in the foot while it shoots its own population to death.

The Lebanese Daily Star editorial also takes issue with Assad’s choice of violence
over reconciliation: “As the now-daily stream of available information racks up the Syrian uprising’s body count, it is easy to forget it started with
a simple, peaceful demand. The Syrian people began demonstrating asking for greater freedom.... It scarcely needs repeating that the only avenue available
to Assad is to listen to the masses, to implement immediate and tangible reform that improves their lives and addresses their grievances. No one is claiming
this will be easy. But every journey, no matter how long or arduous, begins with the first step. The road is difficult, but killing innocent civilians
has never been an effective way of smoothing the surface.... Assad knows what he needs to do. The Syrian people, Arab nations and the world at large hold
their collective breaths in the hope that he acts upon it.”

Patrick Seale, writing in the daily Gulf News
, insists there must be a solution that will satisfy both parties: “The opposition faces a stark choice: either to go all out to bring the regime down,
or to cooperate with it in building a new and better Syria. The first course is hazardous: if the Baathist state is torn down, what will replace it? The
future is uncharted. The second course requires an act of faith: it means accepting that the regime truly wants to implement radical reforms by means of
a national dialogue. Its attempt to launch such a dialogue has so far failed to convince.... No one should suppose that the Syrian regime will go down
without a fight. Most regimes seek to destroy their enemies.... A sectarian civil war on the Iraqi or Lebanese model is every Syrian’s nightmare. There
must surely be another way out of the crisis.”

Husam Itan in
is both more specific on what the new compromise should look like as well as more pessimistic about the possibility of its taking place: “The events witnessed
in Homs since the beginning of the week leave no room for any doubts over the fact that the authority in Syria has relinquished “dialogue” and turned toward
pure violence to suppress the ongoing uprising staged against it. Journalistic and diplomatic information reveal that the narrow circle surrounding President
Bashar al-Assad decided to no longer offer additional ‘concessions’ to the oppositionists, and hold on to power regardless of the cost.... It would not
be unfair to the Syrian opposition if we were to say that change should either be toward a state that treats all its citizens equally and rejects sectarianism,
denominationalism and all their offshoots or should not be. This is true despite the realization in advance of the fact that the wheel of change has started
turning, which is increasing the urgent character and necessity of the alertness.”

While the Assad regime has done little to bring in the opposition leaders, the latter have, according a
Khaleej Times editorial
, been meeting to come up with a unified front: “The opposition has formulated a strategy for the ouster of the regime. Meeting at the National Salvage
Congress in Istanbul, hundreds of opposition figures and exiled dissidents agreed to launch a civil disobedience movement against President Bashar Al Assad’s
regime. By doing so, the aim is to intensify the efforts already underway in the form of protests against the government. According to Wael Al Hafez, an
opposition figure, the new effort would be to ‘choke the regime economically and paralyse the state with the least damage.’... Given the unravelling situation,
Assad, by giving in to further repression and brutality, may have lost his one chance to reverse the situation.”

However, the most hard-hitting article comes from
Hussein Shobokshi who in Asharq Al-Awsat
characterizes Assad
as “more dangerous than Gaddafi” and accuses the Syrian regime of “systemically suppressing and killing unarmed and peaceful protesters ever since the
outbreak of the Syrian uprising approximately 4 months ago.... Now the Syrian regime is arming some pro-regime sectarian elements for the sake of ‘self-defense.’…
What is truly astonishing is the disgraceful international and Arab silence with regards to the heinous crimes committed by the al-Assad regime.... This
international and Arab silence towards the Syrian crisis is completely unacceptable.… The Arabs should not feign shock at calls for foreign intervention
in order to resolve this crisis.... Turning a blind eye to the crimes committed by the Syrian regime against its people represents a stigma for everyone
involved. Just as the international community announced that Gaddafi had lost his legitimacy, it must also act in the same manner towards the Syrian regime.”

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