Jun 29, 2011

Still Killing Its People, Syria Offers a Smile

Chuck MisslerBy Dr. Chuck Missler
Koinonia House

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The battle continues in Syria, where protestors and security forces have clashed for three months over the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. Human rights groups say that more than 1000 people have been killed as the government cracks down on the protests. Because international media have been banned from the country, all information about the goings on come from interviews with refugees or in the form of amateur videos.

Video footage from the town of Hama on Friday showed what looked like tens of thousands of people shouting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Syrian officers were captured on film shooting at protesters, leaving as many as 20 dead.

Gunfire and tear gas were the response to protests in the Damascus suburbs of Barze and Midan. Witnesses said that officers were making "Mass arrests … taking whoever is standing in the street." Another witness claimed that security forces fired into a crowd in south Damascus, injuring unknown numbers of people.

Syria’s President Bashar al-AssadOn June 20, Assad, a clean cut 45-year-old (with a remarkably long neck), spoke to the people of Syria and offered reforms, inviting the opposition to a "national dialogue" including the possibility of allowing competition with his ruling Baath Party. Commentators in the area were not impressed with the too-little-too-late approach, especially since Assad had recently called the protestors "saboteurs" and "germs."

Even those previously friendly to Assad criticized him. "Whoever looks into the reactions to President Bashar al-Assad's last speech would find it hard to find even one positive statement in its favor since almost everyone found it negative on all levels," wrote columnist Mohamed Krichen in Al-Quds al-Arabi, a Palestinian-owned daily published in London. Krichen declared that Assad had "wasted another opportunity." He wrote, "It is not shameful for a leader worthy of that title to show a little modesty, retreat or recognize the mistakes he committed while saying he is willing to assume his responsibilities in full."

Still, there appear to be some steps toward reconciliation. A group of 200 Syrian opposition figures gathered at the Semiramis Hotel in Damascus Monday in order to seek the "peaceful transition to a democratic, civil and pluralistic state." Many activists refused to show up because of the ongoing harsh crackdown. Those that did attend called for the attacks on protestors to end, political prisoners to be released, and the army to pull back from the cities.

The Syrian government sent out an Assad advisor to smile and troubleshoot on Tuesday. Bouthaina Shaaban presented the government's crisis as one against lawless groups of "armed gangs." She said that the president recognized that there were legitimate grievances and declared that the government was not targeting peaceful protestors but extremists.

"It is our ultimate desire, as a government, of course, to put an end to the violence," she said. "But when you have extremists everywhere, going anywhere, killing people, obstructing roads. What do you do? The opposition should come and help, not only criticize."

Shaaban claimed that over 500 officers had been killed, "...sometimes with their families their children. Who is killing [them]? I want an answer from the opposition, they have no answer."

The international community is not ready to dive into Syria the way it did Libya. NATO's intervention in Libya did not result in the exit of Muammar Gaddafi, and nobody wants to get into the sticky mess in Syria.

Russia, which has long sold weapons to Syria, has called on Syria to implement "real" reforms. Russian envoy Mikhail Margelov met with a group of Syrian opposition activists in Moscow, and he said that Russia did not want Syria to descend into a civil war like the one that plagued Libya.

Meanwhile, the European Union added more sanctions to the list against both Syria and Iran, which has been accused of aiding in the attacks against protestors.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty gave a passionate speech at the Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday morning, criticizing the Obama Administration's tolerant attitude toward the Syrian government:

"The Obama ‘engagement' policy in Syria led the Administration to call Bashar al Assad a 'reformer.' Even as Assad's regime was shooting hundreds of protesters dead in the street, President Obama announced his plan to give Assad 'an alternative vision of himself.' Does anyone outside a therapist's office have any idea what that means?"

Related Links
Syrian Forces Launch Deadly Attack Against Northwestern Province - FOX News
'Warning to Assad: Attack us, we'll hit you personally' - Jerusalem Post
Isaiah 17 - An Oracle Against Damascus - BPB (Jack Kelley)
Obama’s ‘Fantasy’ Rejects Bringing Home Envoy from Syria - Arutz Sheva
Report: Israel threatens to assassinate Syria's Assad - Israel Today (Ryan Jones)