It’s Syria’s turn.
Some friends and colleagues better positioned than I to speculate on the likely outcome of the protests in Der`aa have promised to write a few commentaries on the subject, perhaps early next week.
In the meantime, let’s have an open forum on the subject. Please do post links to news items and videos in the comment section, and I will add them to the main post. Here are a few things worth reading, just to kick us off:
As Protests Mount, Is There A Soft Landing for Syria? (Joshua Landis, TIME.com)
The Baathist regime that has ruled Syria for 48 years is on the ropes. Even President Bashar al-Assad himself seems to have been shocked by the level of violence used by Syria’s security forces to suppress demonstrations that began a week ago, and on Thursday afternoon his office announced unprecedented concessions to popular demands. But the question of whether those concessions assuage protesters’ concerns or prove to be too little too late may be answered on the streets after Friday prayers.
The protests began a week ago in the dusty agricultural town of Dara’a, near the border with Jordan, over the arrests of high school students for scrawling antigovernment graffiti. Those demonstrations quickly spun out of control, with thousands joining in, inspired by the wave of revolutions that have rocked the Arab world, to demand political freedoms and an end to emergency rule and corruption. The government responded brutally, killing over 30 demonstrators and wounding many more, according to activists. Gruesome videos of the crackdown, disseminated via the Internet in recent days, have enraged Syrians from one end of the country to the other. (keep reading)
LIVE UPDATES on Syria Protests (from NOW Lebanon)
A very good feed of news reports, videos, images, etc. on the unrest in Syria and at Syrian embassies worldwide.
Thousands March to Protest Syria Killings (NYT)
Syria‘s repressive leadership came under unexpectedly heavy pressure on Thursday as thousands of angry demonstrators massed again in the southern city of Dara’a, demanding democratic reform and protesting the deaths of more than a dozen people shot by security forces in the past week.
The government of President Bashar al-Assad, unaccustomed to concessions, rapidly announced a series of reforms, including a salary increase for public workers, greater freedom for the news media and political parties, and a reconsideration of the emergency rule that has clamped down the nation for 48 years.
Mr. Assad also ordered prisoners taken during the crackdown this week to be freed. An adviser said publicly that Mr. Assad had ordered troops not to fire live rounds at protesters in Dara’a and that “there were, maybe, some mistakes.” (Keep reading)
International Crisis Group Conflict Risk Alert on Syria
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. (keep reading)
Andrew Tabler: Syria Protests Call for Strong U.S. Stance
…Thus far, the Asad regime has refused to accept Washington’s criticism of its record on human rights and democracy. This month’s protests provide Washington with the opportunity to reiterate calls for universal freedoms — whether Damascus likes it or not. On March 24, the State Department condemned the “Syrian government’s brutal repression of demonstrations, in particular the violence and killings of civilians at the hands of security forces,” and also said, “Those responsible for the violence must be held accountable.” To achieve this, and to ensure that Asad follows through with his promises to enact domestic reforms, the United States should publicly pressure the regime to respect human rights and political freedoms, and institute rule of law in the country. (keep reading)