This weekend, Syrian opposition activists accused President Bashar al-Assad’s army of mass executions in the town of Daraya, in the suburbs of Damascus. It is the latest atrocity in weeks of violence as Assad and opposition forces battle to claim the cities of Aleppo and Damascus.
In a surprising move in Syria, Manaf Tlass, who served as a general in Syria’s Republican Guards, has defected. Tlass was a member of the Damascus aristocracy and was close to President Basha al-Assad.
The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss a massacre that took place over the weekend in the Syrian town of Houla. The Syrian government insists that its tanks and artillery were not responsible for attacks that killed at least 90 villagers – including 32 children – but monitors who visited the village after the attacks said they found evidence that the Syrian military fired on civilians. Amr Al Azm, member of the Syrian opposition and professor of history and anthropology at Shawnee State University and Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, react to the latest news from Syria.
The Syrian National Council has formed a military body to serve the role of Defense Ministry and to coordinate rebel factions. But not all of the rebels are onboard yet, and the SNC is looking to the west for funding and weapons. In a speech Monday on the senate floor, John McCain called on the U.S. to lead an effort to help the rebels. The Obama administration is in a tight position. The president is expected to give a speech later today with a decision on how the U.S. should approach the SNC.
Over the past ten months, Syrian Security Forces have killed more than 5,000 protestors across the country. But this weekend, two key voices announced their calls to action: the Arab League will seek U.N. Security Council approval to peacefully end the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer introduced a bill that would block financial aid and create trade sanctions against Syrian leaders involved in the crackdown.
Syria has announced it will allow 100 observers into the country, after a long political battle with the Arab League. But as director of University of Oklahoma's Center for Middle East Studies Joshua Landis notes, the situation those observers will enter is explosive. The Syrian Free Army and security forces of President Bashar al-Assad seem at the verge of all-out war, and tensions within the country are higher than ever.
Since mid-March of this year, pro-democracy protests have engulfed most of Syria, and in August, Syrian opposition formed the 94-member National Council, to aid in the ousting of President Bashar al-Assad. Earlier this week, the council warned that the country may find itself in the midst of a civil war if Assad doesn't step down. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Susan Rice, the United States' ambassador to the UN, blasted China and Russia for vetoing a resolution condemning the violence of the Assad government.
Yesterday the Obama administration called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. It was the administration's strongest statement since the Syrian uprising began. "For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for [Assad] to step aside and leave this transition to Syrians themselves," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. The U.S. is united with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and a host of European nations in pushing Assad to step down, and that international coalition may prove strong enough in the long term to force the Syrian leader out. How loudly will the American government's words echo, as Assad struggles to hold on to power?
Syria’s government is attempting to crush the democratic uprising, sending tanks, armored vehicles and snipers into the rebellious city of Hama for the fourth straight day of Ramadan. Unverified footage taken from YouTube and obtained by The New York Times depicts tanks shooting at civilians. Human rights groups say more than 140 people have been killed since Sunday, compounding a civilian death toll of more than 1,600 since March. The United Nations Security Council condemned the crackdown, but is the international condemnation too slow?
Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies, Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma, and author of the Syria Comment newsletter, discusses the latest news from Syria, a meeting in Turkey of the opposition groups, and the Syrian government's response.
Security forces in Syrian tanks opened fire on civilians and killed at least 9 people Sunday, fueling speculation that the country is engaging in even more brazen efforts to quell the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad. Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, analyzes the events in Syria. "This revolt has settled into a stalemate," says Landis, while the government maintains the upperhand as it continues to shoot at protesters.
Anthony Shadid, New York Times correspondent in Beirut, and Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies, associate professor at the University of Oklahoma and writer of the Syria Comment newsletter, discuss the latest on the uprising and crackdown in Syria.
Syria's cabinet passed a draft law on Tuesday lifting the country's 48-year emergency rule, the unfairness of which has been a rallying cry for those in the country who want reform. The cabinet was under pressure to ease the emergency rule, but immediately after the supposed concession, the body passed a law that requires Syrians to seek permission to protest from the Interior ministry. The political upheaval sweeping across North Africa and the Mideast has been compared to a contagious virus, but Syria just may be the most contagious country of all. Syria is centrally located, bordering Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon.
As protests continue in Syria, there have been reports that the government security officials are firing teargas on demonstrators, with 12 people killed over the weekend. A Syrian spokesperson told The Takeaway that armed thugs were responsible for these deaths. Joshua Landis, Director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma responds to her claims and helps put the upheaval in context. He says that there is a lot of fear in the country by both protesters and the government. "In order for them to change this government, it's going to mean war," he says, However, Syrians don't want that.
Syria is the latest in a list of countries like Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, as disenfranchised citizens in that country have gone to the streets in recent weeks, to protest President Bashar al-Assad's eleven-year reign. The protests have been met with violence; dozens have been reportedly killed by security forces. In response to the protests, the government has repeatedly suggested it may lift the country's emergency law — which allows the leadership to arrest without cause or warrant among other powers — as a concession to protesters. But many are already calling it a bluff.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to introduce reforms in his country, but there have been violent crackdowns in recent days with reports that Syrian secret police have broken up protests in Damascus. Joshua Landis is the Director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and the author of the Syria Comment blog. He helps analyze the latest news out of Syria.
There are reports that Syrian security forces have killed at least 25 protesters in the city of Deraa on Thursday. The protests began a week ago when 15 school kids were arrested for writing anti-govt graffiti, but they've now expanded to a larger demand for freedom. So far the protests have been isolated to the once city of Deraa, but the government is fearful that they'll spread. Syria has lived under dictatorship for 45 years, and now Syrians are asking if they can have a stable democracy. Joshua Landis, Director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, says that the government will maintain the upper hand as long as the Sunni economic elite, which runs the economy, sticks together with the military elite. However, if the elite splits, then anything can happen, he says.
Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma looks ahead to what may transpire in Egypt, where the revolution continues. Although there's fear of violence, Landis says, "the leadership of this mass movement has shown extraordinary ability to organize itself and show restraint." He also helps explain the precarious position of the Egyptian Army, which finds itself potentially leading a country. Max Rodenbeck, Middle East correspondent for The Economist, author of " Cairo: The City Victorious," has an update and analysis from Cairo.
Almost a million people have gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square, where protesters continue to call for President Mubarak's immediate resignation. Protests have also broken out in other major Egyptian cities. The president has reportedly left Cairo for the Red Sea resort city of Sharm-al-Sheikh. Tamer El-Ghobashys, staff writer for the Wall Street Journal and Joshua Landis Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma respond to the latest news.
We've seen a domino effect in the Mideast as protests in Tunisia sparked the continued unrest in Egypt. Over the past week opposition activists in Syria have gathered in small groups to pay homage to the protestors in Egypt, while a Facebook group, run mostly by Syrian expatriates, is trying to organize a "Day of Rage" in that country.