Syria Under Threat

The so-called popular protests hit Syria on the 15th of March in the southern city of Deraa and by today have reached the towns of Homs and Hama, the coastal region of Banias and Lattakia and the outskirts of Damascus. Tensions are also reported in areas inhabited by Kurdish minority. The Western media are describing the horrors of violent killings of hundreds of demonstrators demanding resignation of President Bashar Assad and removal of state of emergency imposed when the ruling Baath Party took power in 1963. The demonstrators in Syria have a similar list of demands as do their followers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and some other Arab countries.

Having analyzed protests in neighboring countries, Bashar Assad showed himself as a flexible politician and partially satisfied the demands. However, concessions and reforms are not exactly what members of the pro-democracy opposition need. Each new concession is ignored, while new demands appear. The aim is to change the regime and topple Assad.

As fas as ‘victims’ are concerned, it would be silly to insist there were no victims among the civilians. It is impossible to avoid civilian deaths when crowds of angry people take to the streets. Bashar Assad blamed riots on Islamists who have a sophisticated network of agents across the country and had already used arms against the army and the police. According to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), as of the beginning of May the civilian death toll stood at nearly 70 people, while the number of dead police officers and soldiers was revealed as 78 (the opposition and western media reported ‘hundreds’ of victims).

Following the information warfare rules, the riots in Syria are described as ‘popular protests against the regime’. The western media do not seem to bother who are those hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets to support Assad and demanding that life returned to normal in Syria. Are they ‘servants of the regime’? The situation unfolds under a similar scheme we’ve already seen in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya.

In the past three days the government forces have moved closer to the town of Hama, which is said to be an Islamist rebel stronghold. Order was brought back to Banias and Hasaka, where Kurds were assured that their demands would be fulfilled. However, the situation remains tense, and a new wave of bloodshed is very likely. Moreover, it is clear that Syria`s bribed ‘pro-democracy opposition’ is not going to surrender.

There is something peculiar about the U.S. position on Syria. We all remember that as soon as popular uprising began in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, Washington and Europe urged these countries` leaders to step down immediately. But now the West condemns Syria`s crackdown on opposition, approves some not at all painful sanctions against Syrian government but still says nothing about Bashar Assad`s resignation. A younger son of the late Hafez al-Assad, Bashar is widely known critic of the U.S. dictatorship in the region, he sympathizes with Iran and the Lebanese Hizballah group, as well as the Palestinian Hamas.

What stands behind this cautious attitude? It maybe because Syria plays a crucial role in the Mideast region, including the Arab-Israeli conflict. Many people see Assad as a politician who can be flexible enough to carry out reforms but still be harsh against critics of his regime. The likelihood of the regime’s decline is equally attractive and frightening to those who stand behind the uprising: they have some fears concerning the Islamist rule.

The position of Israel is absolutely clear. I prefer the political extremism of Assad over religious extremism,” said a parliament member from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. Besides, Jerusalem has fears that in case the secular regime of Assad`s Shia minority is toppled by Sunni opposition, this will play into the hands of ‘The Muslim Brotherhood’.

I do not believe that the Libyan scenario is likely to work in Syria: being members of the UN Security Council, Russia and China won`t allow this to happen.

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

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