Syria’s rising challenge

The violence induced by the reform protests in Syria is escalating by the day. Despite the lifting of the decades-old emergency by President Bashar Al Assad, large-scale protests planned for Friday went ahead with people pushing for regime change.

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Published: Sun 24 Apr 2011, 9:02 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 6:45 PM

As a result, at least 80 people have been killed with security forces opening fire on the demonstrators. This does put the Syrian regime in an increasingly complex situation. The regime’s recent overtures are interpreted as a sign of weakness by the opposition. In a bid to push further, they are likely to demand more and mobilise more people to take to the streets despite the security forces’ strong-arm tactics.

The anger against the security infrastructure is palpable with people demanding a dismantling and restructuring of the entire apparatus controlled by the state. President Assad’s attempt to quell popular anger by abolition of the emergency law has not made much impact since the security forces’ still enjoy extraordinary powers. Moreover, the widespread perception is that the government is making only hollow efforts without implementing any of its so-called promised changes. The Syrian activists, however, are adamant to establish a democratic political system, which could only come about if Assad’s ruling Baath party is removed from power.

US President Barack Obama has come down strongly on Syria, condemning the violent crackdown on protesters and has blamed Damascus for seeking Iranian assistance in repressing its people. He also said that instead of listening to his own people, Assad was blaming outsiders for the troubled state of affairs.

Syria’s alliance with Iran is a tangible reality as is its animosity with neighbouring Israel that continues to occupy Golan Heights captured in 1967. The fall of the pro-Iranian Syrian government would be beneficial to both the United States and Israel. Besides, the Syrian government remains sympathetic to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories — a principal reason for the US labelling it as a state sponsor of terrorism. It is but natural that Washington would prefer a different political setup in Damascus, one that is more pliable towards Israel and the West, and inadvertently blocks Iranian aspirations in the region. The fall of the Assad regime could well deliver that.

It is, therefore, not unnatural for Assad to allege external influence in mobilising the current unrest. At the same time, any genuine concerns of the Syrian people must be addressed in practical terms and not by issuing decrees. It is hoped that the coming weeks bring a peaceful resolution and dispels the violence and instability gripping Syria at present.

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