Syria worried it maybe next

Author - Ammar Abd Rabbo Source - http://flick...Image via Wikipedia
Washington Times:

Syrian President Bashar Assad is talking publicly about government reform as his countrymen prepare for anti-regime protests in the wake of popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

“If you didn’t see the need of reform before what happened in Egypt and Tunisia, it’s too late to do any reform,” the Syrian leader said in a rare interview published Monday on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

He mentioned one planned law that would create municipal elections and another that would liberalize Syria‘s draconian restrictions on civil society groups, though he spoke mostly in generalities.

Mr. Assad said he does not fear an uprising, claiming that his government, which supports the Islamist militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, is “very closely linked to the beliefs of the people.”

Syria has been under emergency law since 1963, allowing it to suspend certain rights, including freedom of assembly. Most human rights activists consider it one of the more repressive countries.

Despite Syria's police-state atmosphere, the Internet simmered with reports of a nationwide “day of rage” on Saturday, which would roughly coincide with the 29th anniversary of the Hama Massacre, in which Syrian forces killed thousands of civilians while quelling a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Several activists declined to comment about specific protest times and locations for fear the information could fall into the wrong hands, but said they were cautiously optimistic that something was in the offing.

“The officials are worried, no doubt,” said Ammar Abdul-Hamid, the Syrian founder of the Tharwa Foundation, an organization devoted to democracy promotion in the Middle East. “Assad doesn’t like to talk about political reform, so the fact that he’s doing it in an interview with the Wall Street Journal speaks volumes.

“But you’re talking about a regime that is very successful — maybe the most successful in the Middle East — at suppressing dissent.”

But Egypt had been successful too. The difference is whether the regime is willing to kill people to stay in power. Iran has shown that it will, and in Egypt the army made it clear it would not. It is a telling indicator in how violent a revolution there will be at the end of the regime. It should be noted that there was a general uprising in Lebanon which chased the Syrians out. But now they are back in charge through their Hezballah proxies. If the Assad regime fell it would be bad news for Iran and Hezballah.
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