Landis at "Daily Kos:" Readership of "Syria Comment" doubles
Thanks to Sue Hudgens at the Booman Tribune little "Syria Comment" has been getting some traction in the US.
Her story NSC Chief Hadley asked Italy for Syria Replacement Name which relies heavily on Sryia Comment, was run as the lead story on the "Daily Kos," which is read by millions, and the European Tribune. It is a good read and doubled Syria Comment's readership overnight. Thanks Susan. You are the woman!
Frosty forecast for Syria's democratic Arab Spring
(Taken from a Farid Gadry and the Syrian Reform Party circular)
UN report reignites opposition's debate about whether Assad can be toppled
Washington DC, October 24, 2005/Globe and Mail - MARK MACKINNON
The man seen as the de facto leader of Syria's opposition took a few rapid puffs on a cigarette as he considered the question: Are the country's democrats ready to challenge President Bashar Assad's hold on power if international pressure succeeds in weakening it?
"No," came the one-word confession from Riad al-Turk, the 75-year-old former political prisoner who is Syria's most broadly respected opposition politician.
He acknowledged that the country's democrats, persecuted by the regime and divided until recently into myriad factions, are in no position to stage the sort of mass demonstrations that took place in Lebanon earlier this year, which sparked talk of an "Arab Spring" that optimists hoped might eventually reach Damascus.
But Mr. al-Turk was quick to add that if the United Nations Security Council decides to put even more heat on the Syrian government at its meeting tomorrow, the pendulum could rapidly swing in the opposition's favour for the first time since Mr. Assad's father, Hafez, seized power in 1970.
The United States and Britain ratcheted up pressure on Syria yesterday, saying a UN report that implicates Syria in the killing of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri was "very serious," and the world must act, Reuters reported. They, along with France, are said to be considering sanctions or other measures aimed at further isolating Mr. Assad's regime.
In the first arrest since the report was released, a suspect accused of calling pro-Syrian Lebanese President Émile Lahoud minutes before the killing was detained over the weekend. (Mr. Lahoud has denied any involvement in Mr. Hariri's death.)
"The internal opposition is against the regime, and the international community is against the regime, so our interests should meet," Mr. al-Turk said yesterday. "Right now, the system appears very strong, but if you analyze it carefully, it is really very weak. A small kick could cause it to fall."
That blow, Mr. al-Turk hopes, will spring from the report, which was released last week. The evidence compiled by UN investigator Detlev Mehlis is damning in its suggestion that the killing was organized at the highest levels in Damascus.
Although the Syrian government yesterday repeated its denial that it had anything to do with Mr. Hariri's death, one or more resolutions condemning Syria are expected to be proposed at tomorrow's Security Council meeting.
Mr. Hariri's death sparked street protests in Beirut last spring and eventually forced an end to Syria's 29-year military occupation of its smaller neighbour.
But Syrian politics, unlike the politics of fractured Lebanon, have been dominated for three decades by one party and one family. Strict state control of the media during that time has meant that most ordinary Syrians know little about the opposition or its platforms.
There's no single figure who could be named as a serious rival to Mr. Assad. Mr. al-Turk is revered in opposition circles as a symbol of resistance to the regime, having spent some 17 years in prison for membership in the banned Communist Party. But he said he would refuse the mantle of leadership even if others tried to thrust it upon him. Stooped and frail, he said the country needs hundreds of new leaders to emerge, not just one man.
The chances of that happening, he said, were advanced last week by the signing of the Damascus Declaration, a two-page document in which a hodgepodge of Communists, Islamists and liberal democrats came together to demand peaceful regime change in Syria. It was the first time the disparate parties were able to put aside their quarrels about what should follow the Baathist regime in Syria, and agree to work first on their common goal of ending Mr. Assad's rule.
"There's a window of opportunity right now," said Farid Ghadry, president of the Reform Party of Syria, a U.S.-based pro-democracy group. "With the Damascus Declaration and the Mehlis report, it feels like it's all coming together and that real change could happen. When it's going to happen, or how, we don't know."
Mr. Ghadry, like Mr. al-Turk, said he hoped the UN would be careful to impose only targeted sanctions on the Syrian leadership. Broader economic sanctions, he said, would do unnecessary harm to the Syrian people, an estimated 30 per cent of whom already live in poverty.
While much of the world was shocked by the allegations contained in the Mehlis report, it contained few surprises for Syrian opposition figures, who say they've known for decades that they're up against a regime that has no qualms about using violence to achieve its desired ends.
Anwar al-Bunni, a prominent opposition figure and human-rights lawyer, was attacked by thugs on Thursday, one day after he met in his apartment with a reporter. He believes the assault was related to a personal project he has been working on, drafting a constitution for a post-Baath Party, democratic Syria
"Nobody knows what they'll do next. This is a very dangerous time. Very serious."
Although we support unity with other opposition leaders, we have some concerns about the Damascus Declaration the way it was drafted. We believe that separation of religion and State is essential to building a modern and peaceful country. We also believe that "Minorities" are Syrians and we must give them the room to decide what is best for them. We also object to dealing with the Assad regime as is suggested in the Damascus Declaration.
ISRAEL: "WE WILL NOT PLAY INTO ASSAD'S HANDS"
Ma'ariv -- The conclusions of the UN report on the assassination of Rafik Hariri have aroused a great deal of interest among the highest political and diplomatic echelons in Israel, but the silence of Israel is has been the loudest of all.
The entire upper Israeli echelon has refrained from commenting on the findings in the media, and Israeli officials said that a response would only assist the Syrians to present the report as an Israeli plot. "Any response on our part will play into Syria's hands, so Israel will not respond or comment on the matter," a high-ranking Israeli official said.
However, political officials said off the record that the report is impressive and interesting, and it will lead to aggressive measures by Washington. Israeli officials point out that the publication of the report will also increase the pressure on Syria to implement carry out Res 1559 to disarm Hizbullah. "It looks as though both the Americans and the French are determined to reduce Syria's involvement in terrorism," a high-ranking Israeli official said yesterday. State officials also said that this is a bomb that threatens Assad's regime.
At the moment, it appears that among the members of the Security Council, only Russia is trying to defend the Syrians. The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavarov, who will be visiting Israel on Wednesday and will meet with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, is trying to delay the Security Council meeting. Shalom is expected to put pressure on Lavarov to fall in line with the United States and the other members of the Security Council regarding the Syrians.