By now, there are very few voices heard supporting Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. The US has finally condemned Assad — Hillary Clinton has stopped calling him a ‘reformer’ (see Ms Clinton’s op-ed in the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper for a recent public expression of the US position). But it has not demanded that he leave.
Much of the radical Left has decided that the best course is to simply ignore what’s going on in Syria, and concentrate on — what else — the horrible oppression of the Palestinian Arabs. For example, CodePink’s list of hot ‘issues’ includes these:
Bring Our War $$ Home
Hands Off WikiLeaks
PALESTINE / ISRAEL
AHAVA: Stolen Beauty
Move Over AIPAC
Ground the Drones
Gaza Freedom March
Not a word about what’s happening in Syria, where video and other accounts reliably indicate that Assad’s security forces are systematically torturing, raping and killing people whom they believe are opposed to the regime. A true humanitarian crisis exists among Syrian refugees in Turkey and Lebanon (attention flotilla people: here’s a real opportunity to be ‘humanitarians’).
Assad has also apparently found a friend in Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
Syrian opposition sources have revealed that the US state department has been discreetly encouraging discussion of the unpublished draft document which circulated at an unprecedented opposition conference held on Monday in Damascus. The US ambassador is urging dialogue with the regime, the sources say.
Assad would oversee what the roadmap calls “a secure and peaceful transition to civil democracy”. It calls for tighter control over the security forces, the disbanding of “Shabiha” gangs accused of atrocities, the legal right to peaceful demonstrations, extensive media freedoms, and the appointment of a transitional assembly.
The carefully phrased 3,000-word document demands a “clear and frank apology” and accountability for organisations and individuals who “failed to accommodate legitimate protests”, and compensation for the families of victims of repression. The opposition says 1,400 people have been killed since mid-March. The government says 500 members of the security forces have died.
It does not attack the president or other regime figures by name. It calls for the ruling Ba’ath party to be subject to a new law on political parties – though the party would still provide 30 of 100 members for a proposed transitional national assembly. Seventy others would be appointed by the president in consultation with opposition nominees – which will still leave Assad in a powerful position.
Assad has made positive noises about some of the ‘reforms’ mentioned in the document. This is taken by some as an indication that the policy has promise. But if we take Assad’s prior behavior as a guide, this is absolute nonsense. Over and over he’s made commitments to the US that he did not keep, and we’ve kept coming back for more.
A State Department source suggests that we can’t call for his ouster if we are not prepared to back it up by military action. But that’s nonsense — we certainly had no intention to intervene militarily in Egypt when Obama sent a clear message to Mubarak that it was time to leave.
Another argument is that the opposition is disorganized. That may be, but it’s not a good reason not to support and encourage them. This rebellion has been going on for about 3 months with people being shot down in the streets from the start. Demonstrations are bigger than ever — they are not giving up.
The same sources like to claim that Israel would like to see Assad remain in power. Why they believe this is mysterious, because Israel has been at pains to deny it over and over.
This is yet another roadmap to nowhere — except more Syrians tortured, raped and murdered. Supposedly, Obama wants to be liked in the Arab world. Well, here’s an easy way to make points:
As Barry Rubin said almost two months ago,
There is no excuse for President Obama not to utter six simple words: The Assad dictatorship must go now.