Thursday, October 27, 2005

Syria's Baath party: Multiple parties law to be considered

An embattled Syria is clearly grasping at straws:

Michael Slackman, NY Times-Facing Threats, Syria Weighs Steps to Rally the Home Front:

With the threat of economic sanctions looming over Syria, officials of the governing Baath Party announced Thursday that they would formally reconsider a decision made 43 years ago that stripped hundreds of thousands of Kurds of their citizenship, and would also discuss the prospect of allowing multiple political parties in future elections.

Officials here have for years been promising to resolve the citizenship issue with the Kurds, and to open up Syria's one-party system. But the timing of the announcement on the official SANA News Service Thursday - no matter how vague and noncommittal - may provide an indication of how officials are hoping to manage a political crisis incited by the investigation into the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

...As Syrians wait to see what fate the international community will impose on this nation of 18 million people, President Bashar al-Assad has remained out of view, neither addressing the nation nor making any public statements. Many people said they have been bewildered by the president's reluctance to step forward.

But analysts and people who work with the government said that the nation's top leadership has been uncertain how to handle a crisis that not only touches on some of the most powerful officials in Syria, but also members of the president's immediate family. Mr. Mehlis's report to the United Nations Security Council this week named the president's brother-in-law, Asef Shawkat, head of military intelligence, and the president's brother, Maher Assad, the head of the presidential guard, as suspects in the killing.

For the president, facing the most daunting political test since taking over after his father's death five years ago, the challenge will be to balance the demands of three powerful forces: the international community, his family and the Syrian public. It was considered unlikely that he would agree to turn over either Mr. Shawkat or Mr. Assad...

In other papers:

Jim Hoagland, Washington Post-Opportunity Knocks In Syria's Unraveling:

The unraveling of Syria's Baathist dictatorship provides a lifeboat for the unlikely trio of Kofi Annan, George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac. They need to row together to finish the job of holding Damascus accountable and to surmount the difficult seas that each faces on other fronts.
The joint opportunity springs from the astonishingly detailed accusations by a U.N. investigator that Syria's leadership carried out the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in Beirut -- and now tries to cover it up by lying to the United Nations...

Boston Globe-An indictment of Syria:

In Syria, as in other states of the Middle East whose regimes are kept in power by unaccountable security services, the law is not supposed to be capable of making the rulers answer for their crimes. These political systems are defined by an absence of the rule of law. The people living under such regimes, who know in their bones the reality of arbitrary power, learn not to expect the machinations of the powerful to be exposed. So it seemed a startling form of Middle Eastern glasnost Tuesday when a reporter for Al Jazeera, the Arab satellite TV network, read the entire report on the air from New York...