Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Syria News Roundup

The BBC asks, "Should the international community intervene in Syria?". Two guys respond, one pro- and the other anti- the Syrian regime. Dany Abdullah has a naive pro-Western slant to his argument that I'm not comfortable with, but he gives a good answer regarding the alternative to Bashar al Assad:

"The alternative to Assad's regime is available. Syria has 24 million people and many of them are educated and qualified to become the alternative.
The pro-regime guy gives his name as only "Bashar" which probably says it all. He repeats the usual line of armed salafist groups destabilising Syria and calls those asking for foreign protection "simpletons".

NYT: Iraq Calls for Change of Syrian Regime

This is an interesting change of position that has started emerging over the past few weeks. For Iraq, read Iran, as it is the Islamic Republic which runs the show in spite of whatever is left of the United States military in the country. It's unusual because Iraq as it is today would probably prefer the Syrian regime to remain in power. This change might be happening because Tehran knows that it has bet on a losing greyhound. The higher the body-count, which puts to shame anything the Basij might have done during the Green Revolution, is getting very embarrassing for Assad's allies. This might put into context the next bit of news that caught my attention:

"Russia is ready to back sanction-less resolution on Syria" according to Lavrov (reported by the "Voice of Russia")

I don't know what effect a resolution without sanctions would do to weaken the Syrian regime, but it would still be a major political coup against Assad. If Lavrov really has announced this position then we are seeing chinks appear in the international front that has given Assad cover and legitimacy. Whatever the regime's spin-doctors can come up with, they will find it difficult to defend a regime that insists Israel should adhere to UN security resolutions whilst ignoring resolutions that are telling it to stop killing Syrian protesters. Alone, it is as useful as a chocolate teapot, but it could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Syria's Economy to Shrink by 2% Says IMF - Bloomberg

Here we go, the juicy bit. The headline says it all, but what you only spot when you read the article later is that Syria's economy is expected to only grow by 1% in 2011. Interestingly, Bloomberg report the casualty count to be 3,600 people (killed by security forces) since the start of the protests. Now the Assad's are originally peasants, so the most important thing for them and their followers will be on how to maintain their wealth. If the Syrian economy is on the verge of free-falling and existing sanctions start to take a bite, they might not be able to keep the wheels of the state rolling. Dark days lie ahead for average Syrians.

IRIN Middle East reports that the death toll in Syria maybe as high as 5,000

The report is based on claims by Avaaz and Insan.

Reuters: The Arab League is looking to suspend the membership of Syria and Yemen

This is a good move. It shows that the Arabs might give up on the "slowly-slowly" approach that they adopted  with Saleh and Assad. The problem isn't really the death toll that is slowly rising, most Arab governments don't care about such things. The real problem is that the longer such instability continues, the likelier it will affect the GCC states themselves. So where containment and a quiet 'resolution' of these problems might have been on the cards previously, the tipping point has probably been reached now where something has to be done about these two dictators. I imagine we'll be seeing a flurry of activity regarding Yemen and Syria too, with a number of statements being released by the United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey soon. Watch this space.

Finally, Bahrain and Syria look set to clash tonight - on the football field

I expect the Syrian team to completely clobber the Bahrainis.

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