(Reuters) – The European Union’s foreign policy chief strongly rebuked Syria on Saturday over the violence which has resulted in 22 deaths, and urged “meaningful reforms” to be implemented with immediate effect.
“I strongly condemn the continuing violence and deaths in Syria in the context of protests calling for freedom and democracy,” Catherine Ashton said in a statement. “The Syrian people must be allowed to express their grievances without fear of intimidation, repression and arrest. Meaningful political reforms guaranteeing freedom of expression, fundamental rights and the rule of law must begin now,” she said.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee)
انظر كيف تعامل المخابرات السورية ضيوفها Apr 2, 2011 Syrian intelligence at work torturing #Syria people
Syrian intelligence torture evident to Abdulla in Syria
Reuters Sunday, 10 April 2011
Syrian tanks deployed overnight in flashpoint areas, residents said today, in an effort to prevent further outbreaks of pro-democracy unrest,
intensifying a crackdown on mass protests now in their fourth week.
Once-unthinkable public dissent challenging President Bashar al-Assad‘s authoritarian rule has spread across Syria despite his attempts to defuse resentment by making some gestures towards reform in the tightly-controlled country of 20 million.
Witnesses said on Saturday security forces had used live ammunition and tear gas to scatter thousands of mourners in the southern city of Deraa, where protests first erupted in March, after a mass funeral for protesters killed on Friday.
Syrian security forces later deployed overnight in the Mediterranean coastal city of Banias, home to one of Syria’s two oil refineries.
Several tanks were seen in the northern district of the conservative city where protests intensified as Assad used increasing force to quell demonstrations in the south.
The uprising against 48 years of monolithic Baathist rule erupted more than three weeks ago in the south and protesters destroyed statues of Assad’s family members.
Heavy gunfire was heard but there were no confirmed reports of casualties. Telephone connections were cut, activists said.
In the Houla area of the central province of Homs, north of Damascus, buses were also seen unloading security personnel. A decision by Assad several days ago to sack the governor of Homs has failed to placate protesters.
The National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria said 26 protesters were killed in Deraa on Friday, after earlier reporting the deaths had occurred on Saturday.
A statement on its website on Sunday listed the names of 26 people killed in Deraa and two in Homs, and also provided the names of 13 people arrested over the last 10 days.
Syria has prevented news media from reporting from Deraa and mobile phones lines there appeared to be cut.
Assad, a member of the Alawite sect that comprises 10 percent of Syria’s population, has used the secret police, special police units, irregular loyalist forces and loyalist army units to counter the extraordinary grassroots revolt.
He has blended the use of force – activists and witnesses say his forces have fired at unarmed demonstrators, killing dozens – with gestures such as a pledge to replace an emergency law in force for five decades with an anti-terrorism law.
Emergency law has given free rein to security organs to stamp out public protests, and managed to throttle it for decades before a tide of pro-democracy unrest spilled into Syria from Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere in the Arab world this year.
“The regime is using more violence in Deraa because it thinks that the response of the local population can be contained,” Syrian political commentator Ayman Abdel Nour said.
“Make no mistake about the nature of the Syrian regime. Its strategy in dealing with the protests across Syria is down to one man who makes all the decisions: Bashar al-Assad,” he told Reuters.
Assad has said the protests are serving a foreign conspiracy to sow sectarian strife, similar language his father, the late President Hafez al-Assad, used when he crushed leftist and Islamist challenges to his rule in the 1980s, killing thousands.
On Friday, rallies swept Syria, from Latakia in the west to Albu Kamal on the east, emboldened by the popular upheaval that ousted the autocratic presidents of Tunisia and Egypt.
A Syrian rights group said at least 37 people had been killed in protests across the country on Friday.
State television said armed groups had killed 19 policemen and wounded 75 in the city. The Interior Ministry warned it would not tolerate breaches of the law and would deal with “armed groups”, whom it has always blamed for the unrest.
A witness in Deraa on Saturday said he had seen at least four youths wounded by snipers being taken by protesters to a nearby clinic.
Residents say people avoid taking many of the wounded to state-run hospitals for fear the injured will be arrested by plainclothes security personnel stationed in those hospitals.
In the early hours of Saturday, security forces also used live ammunition to drive away hundreds of people in Latakia, causing scores of injuries and possible deaths, residents said.
One witness said he had seen water trucks washing blood off the streets near Takhasussieh School in the Sleibeh district.
“You can’t go two steps on the street without risking arrest,” a resident said. “It’s difficult to know if there were deaths, but we heard heavy AK-47 fire.”
A central demand of the protesters is the repeal of emergency laws imposed by the Baath party after it took power in a coup in 1963 and banned all opposition.
Assad ordered a committee to look into replacing them with anti-terrorism legislation, but critics say this will probably grant the state many of the same repressive powers.
He has also granted stateless Kurds citizenship in the eastern al-Hasaka region. But Kurdish leaders have said they will continue their non-violent struggle for civil rights and democracy.
According to pre-historic Aloui belief (a minority Shiite sect) people at first were stars in the world of light, but fell from celestial orbit through disobedience. Faithful Alouis believe they must be transformed seven times before returning to take their place among the stars.
Since coming to accidental power in 2000 after his older brother was killed in a car crash, Bashar al Assad, like his father, Hafez al Assad before him, already has too much blood on his hands. Any lingering hope that the British-educated eye doctor would see the light and reform his creaky inheritance has long evaporated.
Under his rule scores of suicide bombers were given the red carpet treatment en route to joining Al Qaeda in Iraq. Assad has facilitated Iran’s grand designs to transform Lebanon into a puppet Hezbollah state from which Iran could trigger yet another and far more bloody conflict against Israel. Terrorists regularly use Damascus as rest and refuel stop. The regime’s prisons overflow with citizens who dare contest his regime. Syria’s economy remains mired in quick sand.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that Syria’s secret police have killed over 50 democracy protestors this weekend alone. That brings the unofficial total killed by Al Assad’s secret police since protests began to over 300. The violence has now escalated to a point where the regime faces its greatest internal threat while the regime prepares for even bloodier actions against its opponents.
Taking a cue from his Tehran masters, Assad is following Iran’s script… dismissing democracy protesters with barely disguised contempt while using every ounce of police brutality to suppress the dissent.
Clumsily, Assad appeared last week before his rubber-stamp parliament in a much anticipated address only to denounce alleged foreign agents beholden to Israel for orchestrating the unrest.
Rather than offer a tangible olive branch to redress grievances, he offered little in the way of meaningful reforms. Assad’s prior pledge to end the despised state of emergency that has served as the regime’s carte blanche to repress since 1963 has remained an empty promise.
Syria matters because it is Iran’s strategic partner in its efforts to tilt the balance of power in the Middle East to a new Shiite crescent of terror linking Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon through Syria to Iran.
Syria has benefited greatly as Iran’s pawn — reaping enormous amounts of Iranian economic largess for its services as doorman to Hezbollah’s growing domination of Lebanon — a domination that serves Syria’s barely disguised claims to Lebanon, as well.
The Obama administration tried mightily to entice Assad into “engaging” Washington in a vain attempt to untie Assad from his patron Ahmadinejad. The White House reestablishedambassadorial ties with Damascus, dispatched senior emissaries to explore Assad’s intentions, offered economic incentives, and tried to convince Assad that his dependency on Iran was counter to Syria’s long term interests.
Even Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveled to Damascus at the height of the courtship, and after meeting with Assad inappropriately declared that all roads to peace in the Middle East go through Damascus. Even that bravado failed to appeal to Assad’s vanity.
The president’s engagement effort was a reasonable, but ultimately futile exercise because Washington had not developed any meaningful leverage against Assad if he continued his old ways. Indeed, the policy began increasingly to resemble a one way courtship rewarding Assad’s continuing bad behavior. Engagement yielded nothing in return from Assad except meaningless platitudes to visiting Americans and a continuation of his old ways.
Indeed, the day after Washington announced it was elevating ties back to ambassadorial level, Assad rolled out the red carpet for Iran’s President Ahmadinejad. The timing of the state visit was not coincidental. It was intended to send a signal to Washington that Syria would not let Washington dictate the terms of its Iranian embrace.
Moreover, Syria continued to thwart the UN’s investigation into the assassination of Lebanese PM Hariri, accelerated a covert nuclear program (conveniently taken out by Israel) and refused to shut down terrorist operations against Israel emanating from terrorist storefronts operating in plain view in downtown Damascus. Our intelligence community has an even longer list of accusations against Assad.
Regrettably, Washington has been too preoccupied with Libya’s ongoing civil war when Syria’s fate has far greater bearing on the future of the Middle East. Libya is a strategic distraction to American core interests in the Middle East. The outcome of that conflict will, at best, marginally influence the course of revolutions in the Arab world.
However, Syria’s potential revolution will irrevocably affect the course of events in the region and along with it, America’s core interests in the Middle East including Arab-Israeli peace, the future of Lebanon, the strategic designs of Iran and democracy’s future in the region.
What can the Obama administration do, if anything, to offer help to the beleaguered Syrian people?
First of all, it’s time for the Obama to scuttle the two-track approach to Assad. Too often, Washington looked the other way at Assad’s domestic repression and his overt support for terrorism in the name of safeguarding a future possibility of neutralizing Syria’s potential troublemaking role to thwart a U.S.-brokered peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Assad has no more credit left in that bank account and he has blackmailed us enough into believing Syria is the yellow brick road to peace in the Middle East. It is not.
And given our failed Syrian engagement policy there is little reason to hold onto the weak reed that it is better to deal with Assad as the devil we know than the devil we don’t. It constitutes a flimsy pretext when rapidly evolving events demand imaginative policies rather than the status quo. Given Assad’s record and what his continuation in office would mean to weakened U.S. policy prospects in the Middle East, I would rather wager that the U.S. from almost every conceivable vantage point is better off with the Assad family gone. At the very least, we have a chance at a new beginning with a Syria that may also be searching for a new beginning.
Second, aside from deploring Assad’s use of deadly violence against his own people, President Obama needs to ratchet up the rhetoric against Assad and his regime to provide far more moral support to the protestors. If Obama could declare it was time for Gaddafi and Mubarak to go, this weekend’s violence throughout Syria compels the White House to issue the same demand on Assad, with policy prescriptions to back that demand up.
Third, after safeguarding the evacuation of Americans from Syria, Washington should begin seizing the assets of prominent Syrian government officials directly responsible for the violence, including members of the Assad family.
Fourth, the White House should marshal global cooperation to impose the same set of economic sanctions imposed on Libya. Congress has led the way in the past when it forced on a reluctant Bush Administration the imposition of economic sanctions against Syria. Whether or not a United Nations Security Council would be willing to authorize sanctions should not deter the White House from doing everything possible to galvanize our European allies to make Assad’s life as difficult as possible. Our Arab allies, but for Qatar (which continues to play footsie with Assad to appease Iran) would be happy to see Assad go, as well.
Fifth, the U.S. should immediately begin providing Syria’s activists the same forms of social networking and internet technology assistance that it is providing Egypt’s activists. Assad’s regime has used every weapon at its disposal to shut down social media networking. And the violence has been self-censored by Al Jazeera, a tool of Qatar’s government, which has intentionally reduced its coverage of Syria’s bloody clashes provoking great anger among Syria’s protestors according to The Economist. U.S. government and Arab media outlets need to fill that void.
Sixth, the administration should place Assad on notice that the U.S. will lead efforts to present international criminal charges against him and anyone else in his government directly or indirectly responsible for killing innocent Syrians unless he yields power in a negotiated exit.
I have no illusions that Assad will be cowered by a more muscular White House policy. He intends to hunker down. No one is proposing military action against the regime. But we have yet to act with greater certitude against Assad. Syria’s people, like their Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan fraternal Arab democrats, deserve to know that America will stand by them as best as we can against a regime that has no further legitimacy.
Former US Ambassador to Morocco
Posted at 4:10 PM, Apr 8, 2011
At least 32 people were killed in Syria’s worst protests yet Friday, as demonstrations spread throughout the country in calls for President Bashar al-Assad to resign. The most violent clashes took place in the city of Daraa, where at least 17 people were killed. Protests started in Daraa but moved steadily closer to the capital Damascus as the night wore on; one witness reported that he saw at least 4,000 protesting in Harasta. Demonstrators called for Assad to resign, despite the reforms he has made in the past few weeks, which include a cabinet reshuffle and the firing of two governors. Protesters said the reforms do not go far enough, as they are still not allowed to form political parties, political prisoners have not been released, and the 48-year-old emergency law is still in place.
Anti-government demonstrations have spread across Syria with the highest turnout yet in a month of unrest, despite a heavy crackdown by security forces in Deraa in which at least 22 people were reported killed.
Residents in Deraa said troops opened fire on thousands of protesters, and ambulances were prevented from reaching the scene.
A man who helped carry the dead and wounded to hospital said he had seen security forces shooting live ammunition. “My clothes are soaked with blood,” he told the Associated Press, asking to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.
On Friday night the death toll around the country was rising, with activists reporting more and more citizens taking to the streets.
Demonstrators are calling for President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for nearly 40 years, to step down. Assad has made a series of concessions to quell the violence, including sacking his cabinet and firing two governors, but protesters say he has not gone far enough.
The unrest moved closer to the centre of the capital, Damascus, on Friday, where force was used against demonstrators in the Kafer Souseh and Harasta areas. A witness told the Guardian by phone that 4,000 people had gathered in Harasta, which has not seen demonstrations on previous Fridays. They carried olive branches and chanted “freedom”. “It was peaceful until security forces attacked and some shots were fired,” said the man, who asked for anonymity. “I saw six people shot, three of them with two bullets each.”
A witness in Kafer Souseh said protesters leaving al-Refai mosque after prayers were beaten by security forces using batons and stun guns. He said he saw several “badly beaten” bodies which looked “lifeless”.
“There were protests everywhere and from what we have seen the numbers were larger than last week,” said Razan Zeitouneh, a lawyer and human rights activist in Damascus who is monitoring the movement. Protests were also held in Douma – which was largely peaceful after a brutal crackdown last week – Homs, Hama, Jableh, Banias, Deir Ezzor, Qamischli and small villages and towns around Damascus and Douma. Phones and internet services were not working in Douma.
State media again disputed that security forces were responsible for the violence in Deraa, saying gunmen had fired on protesters and police. “This expresses clearly and openly that there are some people who wish evil on Syria,” a TV anchor said.
Thousands gathered in the Kurdish towns of Qamischli, Amouda and Derbasiyyeh hours after Assad announced he would grant nationality to 200,000 stateless Kurds. Kurdish activists said the reforms were inadequate. “We are part of the Syrian people and we also want the regime to lift the state of emergency and demand the enactment of new laws allowing for political parties,” said Massoud Akko, a Kurdish journalist and activist. “We need cultural and political rights, not just nationality.”
Other moves that failed to stamp out protests included sacking the governor of Homs, where people again took to the streets.
Assad has reached out to niche groups, including conservative Muslims, by reversing a ban on niqab-clad teachers in schools and closing Syria’s only casino.
But protesters complain that he has still not lifted a 48-year-old emergency law, released political prisoners or allowed political parties to form. Anger is also rising at the continued use of force which local human rights organisations say has killed at least 173 people. “I don’t see how this ends,” said Zeitouneh. “The authorities keep lying and giving promises that won’t satisfy people while the bloodshed continues to anger more people and encourage them on to the streets.”
Katherine Marsh is a pseudonym for a journalist working in Damascus
AFP – Syrian security forces opened fire in the coastal town of Banias on Sunday, killing some people and wounding others, witnesses told AFP.
“Syrian security forces have been firing for the last two hours in the neighbourhood of Ras al-Nabee where there is the Al-Rahman mosque,” a focal point of demonstrations, a witness told AFP, saying four were wounded.
Another witness reported “many dead and wounded” without providing any numbers.
The gunfire, according to both witnesses, came from the Alawite neighbourhood of Al-Quz.
A rights activists, who requested anonymity citing security concerns, said the shots were aimed at the mosque and left seven people hurt.
Seven cars “carrying people sent by the regime arrived in front of the Abu Bakr al-Sidiq mosque and their occupants opened fire,” the witness had said.
The perpetrators quickly took flight although witnesses were able to take down the licence plates of some of their vehicles.
“The people behind this shooting are regime thugs and their names are known to us,” the witness said.
He added peaceful demonstrations had been held in Banias on Saturday afternoon.
Residents of Banias had “agreed to climb on their roofs at 10:00 pm to call in a single voice for the fall of the regime, but by 8:30 all landlines and cell phones were cut.”
The witness said residents had set up checkpoints to protect their neighbourhoods against similar violence.
An unprecedented opposition movement erupted in Syria on March 15 challenging the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who has been in power since 2000.
“We agreed that the situation in Syria is deeply troubling, and that violence against protesters is unacceptable,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said after talks with Italian counterpart Franco Frattini in London.
Hague called on the government of President Bashar al-Assad “to respect the right to free speech and to peaceful protest.”
The regime must “put in train the meaningful political reform which is the only legitimate response to demands from the Syrian people,” he urged.
The condemnation came as Syrian students rallied in Damascus to express solidarity with protesters killed over the weekend.
Twenty-six people were killed on Friday in Daraa, a southern town which has become a hub for protests, according to rights groups, while witnesses said a weekend crackdown left four civilians dead in the town of Banias.
Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved. More »
Protests break out in cities across Syria on Resistance Friday. Reports of many protesters shot dead in Daraa and Duma under siege with all communications cut. There have also been protests in Homs, Lattakia, Banyas, Tartous, Idleb, Qamishly and Dier Ez Zour
خروج مظاهرات في مناطق عديدة في سورية عقب صلاة الجمعة في يوم جمعة الصمود. انباء عن مقتل العديد من المتظاهرين في درعا ودوما تحت الحصار وقطع الاتصالات. مظاهرات شوهدت ايضا في حمص واللاذقية والقامشلي وديرالزور وبانياس وطرطوس وادلب
Dead and Injured protesters at AlOmari mosque in Daraa شهداء درعا و مصابين في جامع العمري
snipers shooting protesters in Daraa القناصة يطلقو النار على المتظاهرين في درعا
Video of protesters being shot in Duma فيديو يظهر اصابة متظاهرين في دوما
protester Nayef elOmar shot dead in Homs استشهاد نايف العمر في حمص
injured protesters in Homs اصابة متظاهرين في حمص
protesters taking down bronze head of late president Hafez in Homs متظاهرين يسقطون تمثال لرأس حافظ الاسد في حمص
video of Slaybeh Lattakia sit in tonight اعتصام صليبة اللاذقية الليلة
Video of Daraa protests – burning Baath buildings فيديو مظاهرات درعا واحراق مقر شبيبة البعث
Video of Homs protests فيديو مظاهرات حمص
Video of Lattakia protests فيديو لمظاهرات اللاذقية
Video of Rifai Mosque Damascus protests جامع الرفاعي دمشق فيديو مظاهرات
Video of Damascus suburbs protests فيدو مظاهرات ريف دمشق
Video of AlKisweh protests فيدو مظاهرات الكسوة
Video of Daria protests فيديو مظاهرات داريا
Video of protests in Idleb فيديو مظاهرات ادلب
Video of Tartous protests فيديو مظاهرات طرطوس
Video of Banyas protests فيديو مظاهرات بانياس
Video of Banyas Alawi protester “we are all one” against corruption فيديو لمتظاهر علوي في بانياس ضد الفساد وتضامنا مع باقي الطوائف السورية
Video of Hama protests فيديو مظاهرات حماة
Video of Qamishly protests فيديو مظاهرات القامشلي
Video of Jasem protests مظاهرات جاسم
Video of BoKamal protests مظاهرات البوكمال
Video of Harasta protests فيديو مظاهرات حرستا
Video of Jableh protests فيديو مظاهرات جبلة
Video of AlTal protests فيديو مظاهرات التل
Video of Ma’ara protests فيديو مظاهرات المعرة
Video of Sarakeb protests فيديو مظاهرات سراقب
Video of Arbeen protests فيديو مظاهرات عربين
Video of Deir ez Zour protests فيديو مظاهرات دير الزور
Source: Syria Leaks
1:08 AM, APR 10, 2011 • BY LEE SMITH
It’s not on the front pages of the Western press, and it’s not leading the hour for the main Arab satellite networks like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, but the Syrian uprising continues apace, while the Assad regime’s countermeasures are becoming increasingly brutal.
Yesterday brought more protests to Syria—and the Assad regime is tightening the screws. According to sources, security forces opened fire on protesters in Deraa, ground zero of the revolution, leaving twenty-five dead and hundreds wounded.
It seems that the security services have adopted an interesting tactic: abandon weapons with the hope of tempting protestors to pick them up, which the regime seems to believe would then justify the use of Qaddafi-like levels of violence to put down the uprising. One website, Ammar Abdulhamid’s Syrian Revolution Digest, is confirming a report that an army officer was shot by security forces for refusing to open fire on civilians.
The streets of other Syrian cities also filled with protestors, like Damascus suburbs Harasta and Douma, and then larger cities like Homs, Hama, Deir al-Zour, as well as Kurdish areas, like Qamishly, and, most dangerous for the regime, coastal cities with heavy concentrations of mixed Sunni and Alawite areas like Latakia and Tartous.
Rumors originating in Damascus regarding Bashar al-Assad’s anxiety are circulating in Washington where, the regime fears, policymakers have targeted it for regime change. That’s doubtful, as David Schenker explains in The New Republic, since recent history, dating back to the 1970s, shows that Damascus seems to have a knack for escaping the baleful eye of Washington. At least Obama is finally using stronger words to condemn the Syrian regime’s violence—not that words matter much to Assad.
What’s peculiar is that given the size of the uprising—people are in the streets of every major Syrian city except Aleppo—and the bravery of the demonstrators, there’s been little attention paid to it. After all, these are not Egyptian security forces under the command of a U.S. ally like former president Hosni Mubarak. Any Syrian who steps out into the street understands that if security forces have a clear shot, they’ll take it, and no one is going to stop them, certainly not the regime, and not fear of repercussions from the international press either. The same Western and Arab media that covered the Egyptian uprising as it unfolded is all but absent from Syria.
The New York Times’s reporting is coming out of Cairo and New York; the Washington Post’s coverage is based in Beirut; Reuters has people in Damascus, but the regime keeps detaining them and throwing them out. That is to say, the Assad regime has done an excellent job of keeping the curtains closed on events, so that the main source of news coming directly out of Syria is almost exclusively from the Internet, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. The social media galvanized Egyptian and Tunisian protestors, but for the Syrian opposition it is the main source of media they have to show the world what’s happening.
As Washington, D.C.-based Arab journalist Hussain Abdul Hussain notes:
Arab satellite channels dedicated more air time to Syria than in the previous weekdays. The first 30-minutes of Al-Jazeera’s news coverage were dedicated to clashes in Syria. However, Al-Jazeera, which has been exceptionally silent on Syria, perhaps because of the good alliance between Assad and Al-Jazeera’s owner the Sheikh of Qatar Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, cherry-picked its coverage of Syrian rallies.
Of course, Al Jazeera broadcast those earlier revolutions and boasted of the role it played in bringing down Zein Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak. But the Doha satellite network is much less present in Syria, as Michael Young explained in his Beirut Daily Star column:
Syria is part of the “resistance axis,” and the downfall of its regime would only harm Hezbollah and Hamas. The same lack of enthusiasm characterized the station’s coverage of Lebanon’s Independence Intifada against Syria in 2005. It is easy to undermine Ali Abdullah Saleh, Moammar Gadhafi, and Hosni Mubarak, each of whom in his own way is or was a renegade to the Arabs. But to go after Bashar Assad means reversing years of Al-Jazeera coverage sympathetic to the Syrian leader. Rather conveniently, refusing to do so dovetails with the consensus in the Arab political leadership.
So the Syrians find themselves largely abandoned today, their struggle not enjoying the customary Al-Jazeera treatment – high in emotion and electric in the slogans of mobilization. The televised Arab narrative of liberty has not quite avoided Syria, but nor has it integrated the Syrians’ cause. As the Arab stations weigh what to do next, they may still hope that the Syrian story will disappear soon, and their duplicity with it. Shame on them.
Young also faults Al Arabiya, the majority-Saudi-owned network, founded in 2003 for no other purpose than to deter its Qatari rival, Al Jazeera, which came to prominence through its attacks on Riyadh and other Arab rivals, including Cairo.
To toss Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya into the same basket is entirely justified here, because both Saudi Arabia and Qatar share a desire to avert a breakdown in Syria, fearing that chaos might ensue. Their views are echoed by a majority of Gulf states, whose leaders have called Assad lately to express their backing.
It’s true that the Saudis, who have been at loggerheads with Syria ever since they suspected Syrian involvement in the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, don’t want to see Assad fall. They fear that the wave of Arab uprisings is likely to reach them next, and this is a good place to block a domino. However, other Saudi-owned media, like the pan-Arab London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, has been unsparing in its criticism of Damascus.
Perhaps that’s because the Saudis recognize that in a region with soaring illiteracy rates, video is a much more powerful medium than the printed press. Of course, it’s also possible to overstate the influence of Al Jazeera, especially compared to one of the region’s oldest and most powerful media, the sermon at Friday noon prayers. Last week in Beirut I heard rumors that the Saudis had instructed Sunni sheikhs and imams throughout Syria to calm things down and keep people out of the street. Apparently, the Saudis’ wishes were scattered by the winds of the Syrian uprising.