Violence in Syria Escalates
Embattled President Bashar Assad's forces entered Hama with tanks yesterday. With media still locked out of the country, reports from activists remain a primary source for information on the ground. Reports have varied between dozens to hundreds killed in the city of Hama alone. Given the Assad family legacy of dealing with dissent down the barrel of a gun, this is not surprising. Assad's father, Hafez al-Assad, had killed thousands to end a similar uprising in 1982. The tenor of the current regime is such that foreign diplomats departing the country are of the opinion that the current president is determined to follow in his father's footsteps - kill until there are no protesters left, or no one is taking to the streets out of fear.
Previously, Russia had been unwilling to join the U.N. in condemning Assad's regime, but President Dmitry Medvedev has now said that Assad would face a "sad fate" if he did not address calls for urgent reform in Syria. Russia has supported the U.N. Security Council statement that condemned "the widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities." The European Union is prepared to expand sanctions, but remains unwilling to include banks and oil companies. Dissidents have stated that sanctions are ineffective if they do not include oil trade, as those funds are being used to arm the Syrian forces against them. Concern over creating another open-ended conflict like the one in Libya continues to keep U.N. member nations from stepping in to resolve the situation in Syria.
Continued on the next page
The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), the state-controlled media outlet in Syria, reports that Assad has approved the introduction of new political parties and has laid the groundwork for a legitimate election process for Parliament. Currently there is only the Baath party, and the legislative body is basically a rubber stamp. Another SANA report shows that there is support for Assad's election plans from Syrian politicaland academic figures. Dissidents are unimpressed with these changes, and are standing firm on their demands that Assad be removed from office altogether.