The Lebanon Bulletin Archive

 

A weekly look at the latest news and developments in Lebanon and the region.

The Syrian Regime's Fall from Grace

The death toll in Syria's uprising has risen to 750 civilians since the protests began in March. According to human rights groups, around 10,000 Syrians have been arrested -- nearly all of them are still in detention. Syrian President Bashar Assad has stepped up military operations in recent weeks besieging the cities of Daraa, Banyas, Homs, Deir el-Zor and others

With the dearth of news due to a communication blackout, the Syrian authorities are managing to curtail most information about their military operations. To this end, the Assad regime did not allow a United Nations humanitarian mission to enter the city of Daraa. The UN humanitarian mission chief confirmed that the visit had been agreed upon with the Syrian authorities, but the mission was postponed until later this week. Fearful of a backlash given its growing violations of basic human rights, Syria dropped its bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

So far, the official Syrian position is to blame "armed gangs" for the violence and to accuse radical Muslim groups of attacking the army and attempting to oust the government. However, opposition activists are denying these accusations, saying that they will not resort to violence in their struggle for freedom.

Meanwhile in Washington, Senators Joe Lieberman, Marco Rubio, Ben Cardin and John McCain, presented a bipartisan resolution calling on President Barak Obama to 'do more' in order to stop the brutal crackdown on political protestors in Syria. The four Senators commended the US administration for authorizing targeted sanctions on some of the Syrian leaders and urged the President "to act swiftly to expand the list of sanctioned persons to include all individuals responsible for gross human rights abuses in Syria, including Bashar al-Assad" and "to speak out directly, and personally, to the people of Syria about the situation in their country."

Most importantly, the resolution seeks to form a coalition of "allies and partners at the United Nations Security Council to condemn and hold accountable human rights abusers in Syria and to support the human rights of the people of Syria."

For his part, Senator John Kerry, a self-professed friend of Assad and former advocate of the US policy of rapprochement with Syria, broke away from his past convictions, explaining that Assad is no longer willing to reform. Kerry added, "Syria will change, as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States and the West and economic opportunity that comes with it and the participation that comes with it."

The European Union is also applying Pressure on the Syrian regime and has placed sanctions on 13 members of Assad's inner circle, including his brother and several cousins. All 27 EU countries froze their assets and prevent them from traveling to the countries of the EU. Furthermore, Brussels imposed an arms embargo on Syria saying in statement that it will prohibit sending "arms and equipment that could be used for internal repression."

Pressure is mounting on the Syrian regime to change its course or face its demise. Protesters in Syria are adamant about changing the regime, but with several military engagements abroad and uncertainty about what could follow the regime's departure, the U.S. appears hesitant to declare that Assad has lost legitimacy. Yet the unwavering brutality is quickly ridding the regime of its friends and the international community may have to prepare for a new phase in the showdown between the government and protesters. The coming confrontation in Homs, the possible reaction of the influential merchant class in Damascus and Aleppo, and growing uneasiness within the Syrian military towards more bloodletting will all be key elements in how current historic events unfold.