Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Leading article: The Assad regime's desperate – and dangerous – gamble

The Independent

"Almost half a year after the start of what became the Arab Spring, the former President of Tunisia is being tried in absentia, Egypt is bogged down in constitutional debate before elections scheduled for the autumn, and Libya's President Gaddafi is fighting for his life. In the Gulf, the government of Bahrain, bolstered by Saudi security forces, is retrenching, with the trials of political opponents and medical staff, while the President of Yemen may or may not return from Saudi Arabia, where he is being treated for injuries sustained in an attack on his palace.

But one of the fiercest and potentially most destabilising – or, more positively, transforming – struggles has still to reach its climax in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad yesterday gave his first televised speech for two months. If he wanted to regain the political initiative, he conspicuously failed. And if he intended to extend an olive branch to his opponents, this is not the message they understood. No sooner had he completed his address, they took to the streets to express their displeasure. As an attempt to calm mounting tensions, it rebounded....

As the fate of Hosni Mubarak demonstrated, there is a point beyond which promises of reform, however well meant, are no longer enough. In Syria, with more than 1,000 protesters dead, more than 10,000 arriving as refugees in Turkey, another 10,000 trying to reach Turkey, and villages and towns laid waste, that point has surely been reached....In trying to defy the wind of change, Mr Assad risks unleashing the whirlwind."

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