Peter Goodspeed: Syrian violence raises the stakes on Arab upheaval (NATIONAL POST COMMENT) 03/28/11)
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Syria, the heartland of the Middle East, bordering Israel, Iraq,
Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, is being ravaged by protests because 15
children in the southern city of Daraa spray painted the words “The
People want the fall of the regime” on a wall.
The arrest of the graffiti artists earlier this month by Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad’s security police touched off weeks of
escalating public protests that have left nearly 65 people dead and
an entire region convulsed with fear.
The violence that is sweeping Syria has the potential to be much
worse than anything seen in the Middle East since rebellion raised
its head in Tunisia in December.
In Syria, there is none of the inevitable sense of hope that filled
Egypt’s Tahrir Square or the shocked sense of indignation that came
with the first civilian deaths in Libya. The current regime in Syria
is already drenched in blood. For decades Mr. Assad‘s Syria has
ranked among the region’s most repressive governments, operating
under a 47-year-old state of emergency that gives police unlimited
powers of arrest and detention.
This is the regime that crushed a Sunni Islamist revolt in the north
central city of Hama in 1982 by murdering more than 25,000 civilians,
while executing prisoners and using tanks and artillery to level
entire neighbourhoods in Syria’s fourth largest city.
It is the same regime that a special United Nations tribunal is
reportedly poised to blame, along with Hezbollah, for the 2005 car
bomb murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
Syria, under Mr. Assad, was the major entry point for the Islamist
jihadists from around the world who turned Iraq into a charnel house
after the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein. Syria is also
home to the leaders of Hamas and other violent Palestinian terror
groups, as well as the chief arms supplier for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
There is nothing inevitable about the Arab world’s march towards
democracy in Syria, even if the same ingredients that brought down
Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisa and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt are
present there in spades. Repression, corruption, family rule and fear
are all starkly present in Syria. But so too is a ruthless
determination to cling to power at any cost.
That should worry the west.
If Mr. Assad seeks to crush his own people on the same scale as his
father did in 1982, what is the west going to do, especially now that
it has already undertaken to bomb Libya’s dictator Col. Muammar
Gaddhafi out of power for doing the same thing? (© 2011 National Post
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