Wednesday, October 12, 2011

News Roundup about Syria

In an interview with The Associated Press, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States would continue to pressure long-time leaders to leave power in Syria and Yemen, and ensure chaos is averted in Egypt, where demonstrators have succeeded in ousting an autocrat. But she cautioned against overly optimistic forecasts for how quickly each country could make its break with the past.
Clinton then had some interesting things to say about the protest movement that is building up in Syria:
“It is not yet accepted by many groups within Syria that their life will be better without Assad than with Assad,” Clinton said. “There are a lot of minority groups that are very concerned.”
Speaking about the Kurdish minority in Syria, Clinton said:
“seems to have been just a spark to the tinder because that goes right at one of those groups that up until now had been kind of on the sidelines,” she said. “As this goes on, I really believe there will be more support for change.”

Qatar Emir calls for dialogue in Syria
Specifically, he seems to be saying that the Syrian regime should sit down with the Syrian National Council and discuss a new constitution for the country. Judging by the tone coming out of Damascus, the response is no, to put it politely. It’s interesting how quickly the regime’s relationship has soured with both Turkey and Qatar. A year ago things seemed to be remarkably cosy, but Qatar seems to have taken a particular offence to the regime’s knee jerk reactions at the start of the protests:
Despite apologies from Syria, Qatar did not re-open its embassy. In August, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors in the Syrian capital “for consultations.”
Finally, speaking from Kuala Lampur, Boutheina Shaaban said that “Each Reform Step was Faced by more Pressures on Syria
What is remarkable is that Dr. Shaaban finds time in this crisis to go abroad and lecture at the “Institute for Diplomacy and Foreign Relations”. According to DP News, Dr Shaaban:
clarified that the main goal of the USA and the foreign powers is not carrying out reform rather they seek pretexts for spreading chaos to achieve their benefits through controlling the region and its resources, pointing out that the USA has used the veto more than fifty times at the Security Council against the rights of the Palestinian people.
This could just be a pre-planned talk, then again, it could be a way to explore possible new markets for Syrian oil. Of course that is just conjecture, but, as the DP news article points out, both Indonesia and Malaysia have strong ties with Syria, and Malaysia has been strongly opposed to any pressure being put on Syria. Watch this space.
In Paris, a Foreign Office Minister has met with members of the Syrian National Council.
“I call on the Syrian regime which continues to divide communities and brutally repress its citizens to meet the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people who are yearning for reform and democratic change.“

At the same time, the UK Foreign Office warns its citizens against all but essential travel within 5km of Syria’s borders.
From al Jazeera’s Nir Rosen, a very good article about Syria’s Alawite community. He points out that Assad’s cult of personality also suppressed Alawite religious identity, and that the regime is interested in maintaining power only for itself, regardless of its Alawite origins. In this second part, Rosen gives invaluable insight from the perspective of average Alawites about the regime, corruption and the protests.
I don’t know how this guy managed to pull of staying in Syria for so long undetected, but well done to him.
Finally, there are reports from the US that a Syrian agent, Mohammad Soueid, of Leesburg, Virginia, has been arrested on charges of spying on and intimidating Syrian activists in the United States.

[This post has also been published on the Syrian Pulse site]

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