John Akouri Newsblog


My Photo
Location: Birmingham, MI, United States

Councilman John Akouri, former Washington, DC Press Secretary & Capitol Hill Advisor, is President & CEO of the Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Australian: West Needs Reality Check On Syria, by Tom Gross

OF all the uprisings sweeping the Arab world this year, most surprising is the one in Syria. Surprising because, with Saddam Hussein gone, Syria is the Arab world's most ruthless and brutal dictatorship. You have to be very brave to stand up to the regime. It is also one of the world's most racist, denying millions of Syrian Kurds full citizenship. Only if a serious uprising were to break out among the Sunni Muslims in oil-rich Saudi Arabia would it be a greater surprise. Following the mass protests in more than a dozen other Arab countries in the past three months, the fear factor in Syria has finally been broken, with thousands of protesters taking to the streets in recent weeks calling for democratic elections and an end to the emergency laws, which have been in place for 48 years.
Al-Jazera and other media report that in the past month hundreds of demonstrators have been shot dead in cold blood, including protesters taking refuge in mosques. And an Arabic-language page on Facebook headed "Syrian Revolution Against Bashar al-Assad" has attracted more than 120,000 supporters. With the situation in Syria deteriorating by the day, and with the West showing a new resolve against another Arab dictator they had cosied up to in recent years - Libya's Muammar Gaddafi - you might have expected a tough dose of realism from Western leaders. So it was amazing - and depressing - to hear US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week again describe President Bashar al-Assad as a "reformer". A "murderer" would be a more appropriate description.
Clinton might want to take a look at the findings of the State Department's most recent (2009) report on Syria. It says the Syrian government and security forces "committed numerous serious human rights abuses, and the human rights situation worsened". It speaks of "arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life" and "enforced disappearances" and the vanishing of "an estimated 17,000 persons". The report describes the methods of torture inflicted on those unfortunate enough to find themselves in Syria's prisons. Among them are "electrical shocks, pulling out fingernails, burning genitalia, forcing objects into the rectum, beating, sometimes while the victim was suspended from the ceiling, other times on the soles of the feet".
"So it was amazing - and depressing - to hear US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week again describe President Bashar al-Assad as a "reformer". A "murderer" would be a more appropriate description."

In defending Assad, Clinton has put herself in the same camp as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who last week called Assad his "brother" and a humanist. Chavez has also come to the defence of Gaddafi. The media have hardly been any better. On CNN last week, I heard Assad being described as "attractive". And in a radio panel discussion on the BBC World Service, all three participants suggested Assad wasn't that bad. February's Vogue profile about Assad's wife was titled "Asma al-Assad: a Rose in the Desert". Previously, the Huffington Post ran a spread on "Our favourite Asma looks".
Of course, praising the Syrian dictator and his family is nothing new. Three years ago, at a lunch I attended in London, William Hague, who is now Britain's Foreign Secretary, went out of his way to praise Assad. A year earlier, Hague criticised Israel for using "disproportionate force" as rockets were raining down on Israel from Lebanon. But in the past month I haven't heard Hague say much about "disproportionate force" in Syria.
Indeed, this might be a good time for the British government to acknowledge Israeli restraint. In recent weeks, Israel has been the victim of a series of terror attacks, including bombings, stabbings and dozens of rockets fired at towns and villages around southern Israel. In the face of this onslaught, the Israeli government has shown considerable restraint, keen to avoid damaging peace prospects. Perhaps it is time for the British and other governments to show Israel a measure of sympathy, rather than stick up for the Syrian regime.
Were the Assad regime to be replaced by a more responsible one, this would be a big gain for the West, for many ordinary Syrians and for the Arab world. Syria is the Iranian regime's most important Arab ally. It has been a key force in destabilising neighbouring Lebanon, as well as promoting the Hamas regime in power in Gaza. And, unlike Libya of recent years, Syria has been actively working against Western interests. So why the reluctance to unambiguously denounce Assad by Western leaders? It's time we had an answer.
Tom Gross is the former Middle East correspondent for London's The Sunday Telegraph

JOHN AKOURI ONLINE NEWSROOM 'We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity. We will not tire, or rest, until the war on terror is won.' -- PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH Add to end of above"line without paranthesis when wanting to loop sound (( loop="-1">