Syria: bloodshed in Damascus

The Arab spring is at a crossroads; if Assad falls and the country avoids civil war, the revolution may move eastwards

23 December 2011

It is an unseasonably gloomy thought, but nevertheless a true one: all the aspirations, the sacrifice and the triumphs of a momentous year of revolution and upheaval in the Arab world hinge ultimately on events taking place in Syria. The Arab spring is at a crossroads. If Bashar al-Assad’s blood-stained regime falls, and the country stays in one piece and avoids a sectarian civil war, there is nothing to stop the revolution moving onwards and eastwards. The next stop could well be Iran, but none of the monarchies of the Gulf states are secure either. But if Syria disintegrates, it would quickly become a regional battlefield, fed by the rival interests of its neighbours – not unlike Iraq was in 2006 or Lebanon was during its civil war. And then the Arab spring would well and truly have come to a halt.

On Friday a blood-strewn week reached its apogee with a twin bombing of security and intelligence buildings in Damascus, killing at least 40 and wounding 100. The regime pointed the finger at al-Qaida and the state news agency quoted analysts who included US, Israel and Europe in the list of the bomber’s puppet-masters.

The Free Syria Army denied involvement and voiced scepticism. Residents of the heavily guarded neighbourhood of Kfar Sousa noted that the streets had been cleared just before the bombings, that agents stationed near the building did nothing when the bombs detonated, and that the state media was extraordinarily quick off the mark with footage and graphic pictures of the atrocities. The bombings also occurred hours before protesters were due to demonstrate against the arrival of mistrusted delegates from the Arab League who are due to monitor the government’s promise to end its violent suppression of the uprising. Had the security forces lost control in a key area of the capital, to the extent that al-Qaida could walk in and place two bombs next to vital government installations? Perhaps. But it must also be admitted that Assad’s cause would be helped if he could claim that his is a fight against terrorists, not large parts of his own population?

Either way, the bombings mark a new and dangerous phase in the conflict. First, the jihadi websites in Anbar province, in neighbouring Iraq, have been full of calls to go to the rescue of their Sunni brothers in Syria. Those parts of Iraq which are moving out of the control of a dictatorial Shia-dominated government in Baghdad could easily form a human reservoir for the conflict in Syria. Second, if the bombings were the work of Syria’s security services, we can expect more of them. They have every interest in generating panic among Syrians, and support for the continued crackdown.

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Sunday, 25 December 2011 - 6:21 pm

    Malaysians should remind themselves that democracy comes with a price. It doesn’t just fall down from the sky.

  2. #2 by Loh on Monday, 26 December 2011 - 1:02 am

    KUALA LUMPUR Dec 25 — Malay rights group Perkasa reminded today that Article 153 helped keep the country peaceful and that it should not be questioned after a Christian leader said it should be inclusive of all groups The group was responding to National Evangelical Christian Fellowship NECF chairman Reverend Dr Eu Hong Seng who said yesterday that the Federal Constitution’s Article 153 is akin to “bullying” if it only protects the rights of one group.///–Malaysian Insider,

    Perkasa’s statement only confirms Dr Eu’s comment that the government bullies. Article 153 is the law of the land and Malaysian citizens have the right to comment on government’s adherence to the law. The fact that the government did not respect the word ‘reasonable share or proportion’ of the opportunities or seats of learning, for example in education, for Malays and hence reasonable share for non-Malays is proof that the government did not respect Article 153. Why can’t any citizen question the action of the people who are elected according to the democratic system of government? Dr Eu did not even question the need for Article 153, which is an important and legitimate issue for the citizens to question, since it had outlived its intended duration.

    Perkasa members only know how to threaten others with their muscles and no doubt their ability to run amok.

  3. #3 by monsterball on Monday, 26 December 2011 - 6:16 am

    In Malaysia…UMNO b and his supporters are fighting for political survivals….playing dangerous games with race and religion politics.
    They are building up a “WAR” ….defending PutraJaya from traitors.
    In Malaysia…it is fanning and fanning for hatred and despair…by Najib and his clowns.
    Smart Malaysians knows what UMNO b crooks are up to.
    No way…Malaysians will behave like Middle East guys.
    All will be shown with the power of the votes…not the power of the fists and parangs in the streets.
    Here…Najib hope trouble starts at streets,… for reasons to declare…Emergency Rule.
    Don’t fall into his traps….all will be peaceful and OK in Malaysia.

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Monday, 26 December 2011 - 11:33 am

    Further to Loh’s comments in #2, when Dr Eu Hong Seng said that the Federal Constitution’s Article 153 is akin to “bullying”, he is expressing his opinion as a “citizen” governed by and subject to the Constitution which also guarantees freedom of speech. Just because Dr Eu happens to also be the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship NECF chairman, it does not imply and infer that –and it is improper and illogical to interpret (read spin) it as – “Christians” in particular questioning as a group the right of another group (Malays) which that constitutional provision supposedly protects. It is remarks like this, predicated upon racial and religious stereotyping and profiling, that will throw a monkey wrench to inter-racial/religious harmony which it is responsibility of a responsible government to safeguard by repudiating them and the entity that makes them. If the government keeps silent, it will be viewed as indirectly supporting such views which makes hollow the PM’s strutting on the international stage arguing that moderate voices should stand up against extremism. When one does not take action against those who incite others, one becomes vicariously responsible for the consequences of incitement as well if breach of peace should break out due to it as what happened recently in Nigeria.

  5. #5 by drngsc on Monday, 26 December 2011 - 1:51 pm

    What do you call a religion that bombs and kills innocent people, then claim glory for it as if boasting. This must be a sick religion. Disgusting. It is homicide.

    Assad has to go. Syria needs a change.
    We need a change too. We need to change the tenant at Putrajaya. GE 13 is our best chance. Failure is not an option. Let us all work very very hard.

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