Now Syria?

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on March 25, 2011

Few things would make me as happy as would the sight of Bashar al-Assad and his family being thrust from their positions of power in Syria. Insh’allah, people like me might have cause to be very happy, very soon:

Syria should follow Egypt’s lead and the Syrian army should “empower a revolution”, Robert Gates, US secretary of defence, argued as thousands marched in a southern city.

Mr Gates made his comments – some of the toughest remarks to date by a US official about the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president – on a day of further upheaval in the Middle East and beyond.

[. . .]

Drawing a parallel between the unrest in Syria and the protests that unseated Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s former president, Mr Gates said: “I’ve just come from Egypt, where the Egyptian army stood on the sidelines and allowed people to demonstrate and in fact empowered a revolution. The Syrians might take a lesson from that.”

His comments came as thousands of people marched on Thursday in Deraa, southern Syria, where at least 44 people are now thought to have been killed in a week of protests, and as Mr Assad announced salary increases and promised greater freedom.

“I would say that what the Syrian government is confronting is in fact the same challenge that faces so many governments across the region, and that is the unmet political and economic grievances of their people,” Reuters quoted Mr Gates as saying during a trip to Israel.

Quite obviously, nothing is a done deal when it comes to Syria, and it is a sure bet that the Assad regime will be prepared to spill blood before being forced to give up power. However, it cannot be denied that the regime is facing perhaps the most serious revolt in its lifetime. And unlike any other uprising the Assads have faced, this one is part and parcel of a clear and unmistakable trend in the Middle East. If I were the ruling family, or one of their hangers-on, I would be sleeping with one eye open.

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