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Syria and the opportunity of reform - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Syrian President’s speech, delivered before the parliament in Damascus, suggests that the Syrian government has decided to confront its internal crisis with severe security measures, instead of a package of reforms, particularly since the Syrian President considers what is happening to be a plot.

The Syrian President says that what is happening in his country comes against the backdrop of the “fashion” trend of revolutions taking place in the region. It is important to note Damascus previously considered what happened in Egypt, and elsewhere, to be the voice of the people expressing their dissatisfaction with their rulers’ conduct…It is true that President al-Assad said in his speech that reform is a necessity, but yesterday he provided no reformative declarations, which indicates, based on reports a few days ago, that there is a dispute in Damascus, behind closed doors, about how to deal with the unprecedented demonstrations that have erupted in several Syrian cities. It has been said that there are those calling for greater reform, and others calling for more force to deal with the demonstrators. Of course, there is evidence to suggest that this is true, and this does not come from the media or satellite television, which was criticized at length by the Syrian President during his speech, but the issue is far simpler than that.

Three days ago, Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa, through the official news agency (SANA), announced that President al-Assad would deliver an important speech during the next two days, to reassure everyone. This caused expectations to rise dramatically, amongst the Syrian people first and foremost, but also amongst observers abroad, for what is happening in Syria will certainly have implications for many issues in the region, whether positive or negative. However, the President’s speech did not include any indications of reform, but only mere promises to study the “reformative” decisions which were announced last week.

As expected, immediately after the President’s speech, demonstrations took place in Latakia, yet these were dispersed with bullets, and there was news of serious injuries. Damascus today has now entered something of a grey area. The failure to adopt genuine reforms has made solutions even more difficult, in light of the continuing protests, and confrontations in Syrian cities. Delaying reformative decisions will be costly, as it only wastes time. Similarly, the security confrontations will have serious repercussions on Syria as a whole, both internally and externally, and this is a dangerous matter. Accordingly, the coming days will tell us a lot: will the Syrian masses cease their demonstrations, after it has become clear that they will be confronted by force? Or will they intensify their efforts there, and raise the ceiling of demands? Certainly, it is difficult to say anything for sure at the moment; however it is clear that Damascus missed the opportunity to announce the radical reforms the Syrians are waiting for, and this was a grave error. Reform, first and foremost, is a genuine need for Syria, and even if it was enacted now, under pressure, it would not make the state look opportunistic, as the Syrian President claimed.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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