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August 3, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 4048

Editorial in Saudi Daily: 'What Syria Needs is Real and Meaningful Change; Instead of Blaming Israel, America, the Muslim Brotherhood … Assad Should Address His People's Genuine Craving for Freedom'

August 3, 2011
Syria, Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 4048

In an editorial in the Saudi English-languages daily Arab News titled "Living in Denial," Bashar Assad and the Syrian government are urged to heed the calls of the protestors and engage in a genuine effort for reform and change.

The following are excerpts from the article, in the original English:[1]

"The Syrian Leader Continues to Live in Denial"

"After three months of popular protests and crackdown that has set Syria on fire, little seems to have changed in Damascus. In his third speech in as many months, President Bashar Assad revisited familiar themes and offered little new. He blamed external forces and 'saboteurs' all over again, and offered vague promises of uncertain reforms in the distant future. There were the regulation 'after-me-the-deluge' threats too, warning of Syria and everything else collapsing in the event of his fall.

"So if anyone expected any sweeping changes and dramatic reforms in the embattled Syrian leader's speech at Damascus University on Monday, they would have been disappointed once again. No wonder Assad's much awaited address, largely targeting the international gallery rather than his domestic audience, was swiftly followed by more spontaneous protests all over the country.

"The trouble is, like many of his fellow travelers, the Syrian leader continues to live in denial, or is allowed to live in denial by his minders and movers and shakers of the Baathist regime. As a result, the Syrian leader doesn't seem to realize the seriousness of the situation and the unprecedented challenge facing the nearly half a century-old Baathist regime. And the longer this ostrich syndrome persists in Damascus, the greater the price the Arab country and its people are going to pay.

"Already, nearly 2,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands have fled to neighboring countries like Turkey. There are widespread reports of abuse by the military largely dominated by an elite minority that also controls all other arms of the state. This may be why, unlike the Egyptian troops who refused to fire on unarmed protesters in Tahrir Square, Syrian forces have had no such qualms in dealing with peaceful demonstrations rocking the country."

"The Use of Excessive, Brute Force Against Peaceful Protesters is Not Going to Deal with the Challenge Facing It"

"How long will this go on? Syria's leaders have to learn from the recent events and developments in the region. The use of excessive, brute force against peaceful protesters is not going to deal with the challenge facing it. Indeed, it will only fuel the anger and yearning for change of a long repressed people.

"This is no time for stalling and procrastinating. The time for forming committees to explore the possibility of reforms in some remote future is long past. What Syria needs is real and meaningful change. Instead of blaming Israel, America, the Muslim Brotherhood and 'armed gangs of outlaws and criminals' for what is clearly a peaceful and indigenous movement, Assad should address his people's genuine craving for freedom. The government in Damascus must peacefully engage the reform movement in his own interest, if not in the interest of his nation's stability. No one wants instability or turmoil in one of the largest and strategic Arab states. That doesn't however mean you should stand and stare while innocent people are killed for demanding what is their due.

"Arab League chief Amr Moussa may have spoken for the whole of Arab world when he for the first time expressed 'anger and concern' over the situation in Syria. Articulating the growing concern of the member states, Moussa warned this week that continuation of the status quo could lead to what may not be desired — for Syria. Indeed, the status quo is in no one's interest. It's time Damascus got this message in no uncertain terms."

Endnotes:

[1] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), June 21, 2011. The text has been mildly edited for clarity.

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