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Syria: Call For Peace Terms

  • March 31st, 2011
  • Posted by EUEditor

assad.jpgAn address to the public by the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (picture) (30.3.11) which skipped the key point of suspending the State of Emergency, in force since 1963, is seen as weakening chances of a viablel truce.

In  Brussels the International Crisis Group has detailed measures it considers necessary to stop a prolongation of the present confrontations between police and protesters, taking dozens if not hundreds of lives.

crisis-group-copy.jpgThe organisation committed to preventing conflict has focused research and analysis on Syria as an especially dangerous point in the current political unrest in the Middle East – crowds in several countries out demanding democracy and the removal of despotic regimes.

Assad who took over from his father as President, after the latter’s death, has indicated willingness to implement some of the concessions outlined by the Crisis Group – but not his dad’s Emergency regulations that went into force two years before his own birth.

See EUAustralia Online, on dynasties, “Egypt and Italy: Old blokes holding on”, 11.2.11.

The Crisis Group report says in part:

Syria is at what is rapidly becoming a defining moment for its leadership.

There are only two options. One involves an immediate and inevitably risky political initiative that might convince the Syrian people that the regime is willing to undertake dramatic change. The other entails escalating repression, which has every chance of leading to a bloody and ignominious end.

Already, the unfolding confrontation in the southern city of Deraa gives no sign of quieting, despite some regime concessions, forceful security measures and mounting casualties. For now, this remains a geographically isolated tragedy. But it also constitutes an ominous precedent with widespread popular resonance that could soon be repeated elsewhere.

The regime faces three inter-related challenges.

First is a diffuse but deep sense of fatigue within society at large, combined with a new unwillingness to tolerate what Syrians had long grown accustomed to — namely the arrogance of power in its many forms, including brutal suppression of any dissent, the official media’s crude propaganda and vague promises of future reform. ..

Secondly, at the heart of virtually any locality in the nation is a long list of specific grievances. These typically involve a combination: rising cost of living, failing state services, unemployment, corruption and a legacy of abuse by security services. In a number of places, religious fundamentalism, sectarianism or Kurdish nationalism also form an integral part of the mix. In others, the depletion of water resources and devastation of the agriculture sector add to the tensions.

The third challenge relates to the regime’s many genuine enemies, all of whom undoubtedly will seek to seize this rare opportunity to precipitate its demise. Authorities have ascribed much of the strife to the exiled opposition, home-grown jihadi elements, local “aliens” (notably residents of Palestinian and Kurdish descent) and hostile foreign parties (notably U.S., Israeli, Lebanese and Saudi).

As a result, the regime claims to be fighting critical threats to national unity …

All this unquestionably forms part of the picture. But these factors are intertwined with others, far more difficult to define or to manage  …

A window of opportunity still exists to change these dynamics, although it is fast closing. Unlike most of his peers in the region, President Bashar Assad has accumulated significant political capital, and many Syrians are willing, for now, to give him the benefit of the doubt.

In fact, a broad range of citizens – including members of the security apparatus – are desperately waiting for him to take the lead and to propose, before it is too late, an alternative to spiraling confrontation. ..

President Assad must show visible leadership and do so now…

This should include several steps:
•    The President should speak openly and directly to his people … and present a package of measures for immediate implementation and suggest an inclusive mechanism for discussing more far-reaching reforms.
•    He should announce the following, immediate measures: release of all political prisoners; lifting of the emergency law; authorisation of peaceful demonstrations; opening of new channels for the expression of complaints, given lack of trust in local officials; and action on the many cases of corruption that already have been compiled by the security apparatus but lie dormant due to nepotistic intervention.
•    Upcoming parliamentary elections should be postponed pending a referendum on sweeping constitutional amendments which should be discussed with a wide and inclusive range of Syrians. Deeper change requires broad consultation and cannot be arbitrarily implemented.

Reference

International Crisis Group, Damascus / Brussels, “Conflict Risk Alert”, 25.3.11.
http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/media-releases/2011/conflict-risk-alert-syria.aspx, (31.3.11).

Picture wikipedia

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