Syrian president Bashar Assad must have been comforted by Hillary Clinton's words last weekend that the US would not invoke R2P to protect Syrian civilians during the current unrest. Reports from Syria detail massive protests that Syrian military forces have tried to control by shooting into the crowd. Hundreds, at least, have died but the protests have, if anything, gotten bigger.
Assad has now forced his cabinet to resign. This is a Kabuki dance since Assad is in control of the entire government and the cabinet is for show. Nevertheless, it indicates that the dictator is at least worried about the unrest.
Voice of America:
The resignation on Tuesday comes as tens of thousands of Syrians rallied in support of the government, as the nation awaited an expected address by President Bashar al-Assad following more than a week of anti-government protests.
Government supporters poured into the streets of the capital Damascus and other major cities to take part in Tuesday's government-sanctioned rallies. The demonstrators chanted and waved flags and pictures of the president.
News reports say President Assad could announce an end to Syria's nearly 50-year-old emergency laws when he addresses the nation in the coming days.
The opposition protests represent the most serious threat ever to President Assad's 11-year-rule and the long-standing authority of his family.
Syrian security officials have cracked down on the demonstrations, firing tear gas and live ammunition to disperse protesters. The U.S.-based rights group Human Rights Watch says at least 61 people have been killed since the unrest began.
It should be noted that Assad - a member of the small, minority Alawite sect (an offshoot of the Shiites) - is unlikely to change the ruling arrangements any time soon. Alawites dominate the government, the military leadership, and the economy despite the fact that Syria is about 90% Sunni. Any reforms by Assad will not touch that reality since his co-religionists help keep him in power.