Monday, October 17, 2005

Syria: Opposition forms new alliance


Syrian opposition liberal parties have announced a new broad alliance to unify their demands for wider political participation and the lifting of curbs on public freedoms.

A gathering of a dozen liberal, pan-Arab nationalist, and left-wing political parties on Sunday, said they signed a petition named the Damascus Declaration to promote greater freedoms and demand a new constitution to usher in political pluralism.

"We are calling for ending of all forms of political repression and opening a new chapter in the history of the country," Akram al-Buni, an activist among the signatories said.

The alliance, which also includes both Arab and Kurdish leftist activists, urged the government to lift the emergency law, in place since the ruling Baath party assumed power in 1963.

...Aljazeera's correspondent in Syria reports that the alliance includes Kurdish parties, al-Mustaqbal (Future) party and civil society committees. The authorities have said they plan to allow the creation of opposition political parties, as long as they are not religiously or ethnically based. The Baath party, however, is expected to retain its political dominance...

In other news:

Los Angeles Times-Suspect in Syria:

THERE IS CONSIDERABLE SKEPTICISM that Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kenaan fired a gun into his own mouth last week, as the Syrian government maintains. Even Foreign Minister Farouk Shareh made a slip of the tongue during his eulogy, twice referring to Kenaan's death as an assassination, and in one case neglecting to correct himself.

...Whatever the U.N. report reveals when it is released on Oct. 25, it is clear that Damascus still exercises undue influence in Lebanon and condones terrorists who organize in Syria to launch attacks in Israel and Iraq. And whatever the cause of Kenaan's death, the United States and the international community cannot let up on the heavy sanctions against Syria unless it offers sweeping policy changes. Scapegoating a few bureaucrats will not be enough.

Economist-A rather convenient suicide:

Mr Kanaan was both a ruthlessly seasoned intelligence operator and a member of the Alawite minority that dominates Syria’s power elite (and to which Mr Assad belongs). For 20 years until 2002, Mr Kanaan virtually ruled Lebanon in his capacity as Syria’s proconsul in the neighbouring state. A master manipulator of Lebanon’s viciously contesting factions, he systematically bled Syria’s enemies before helping to seal the accord in 1989 that ended Lebanon’s 15 years of civil war and ensconced Syria as Lebanon’s final arbiter. The ensuing peace, enforced by a security establishment that reported directly to Mr Kanaan, richly rewarded his friends, top Syrian generals and pro-Syrian Lebanese politicians alike.

Even if the UN sleuths’ trail of clues stops at the door of Mr Kanaan, that may not get Mr Assad off the hook. The loss of such a stalwart figure in his wobbly regime seems likely to weaken it further, especially if Mr Kanaan’s allies find it hard to swallow the official line that his death was suicide. The president, his clan and the ruling Baath party face a crisis as grave as any since his father, Hafez Assad, consolidated Syria’s dictatorship 35 years ago. Where once it could rely on support from the Soviet Union and pan-Arab solidarity, Syria now has few friends in the world except Iran. America is annoyed at Syria’s suspected abetting of Iraqi insurgents and at the support it offers other groups America regards as terrorists. America’s ambassador in Iraq recently spoke darkly of “all options” being open regarding how Syria might be punished...