Syrian protestors call for Assad overthrow

Rick Moran
It's Friday in Syria - a day of prayer and protest as tens of thousands of Syrians poured into the streets in cities and towns all over the country calling for an end to the rule of Bashar Assad.

Reuters:

"The people want the overthrow of the regime!" demonstrators chanted in the Damascus suburb of Saqba, a witness said, defying violent repression in which 500 people have been killed since the nationwide protests broke out in Deraa last month.Demonstrations erupted on Friday in the central cities of Homs and Hama, Banias on the Mediterranean coast, Qamishly in eastern Syria and Harashta, a Damascus suburb. Shots were heard in coastal Latakia and two small protests broke out in Damascus, witnesses, an opposition leader and a human rights group said.

In Deraa, Syrian soldiers fired shots in the air to prevent people attending Friday prayers or protesting, a resident told Reuters. Another said busloads of people were heading to Deraa from nearby villages, trying to converge for demonstrations.

"The snipers are on rooftops of buildings firing at anything that moves. They are preventing people from going to the streets," Abu Mohammad told Al Jazeera television.

Witnesses said roads into Damascus were closed on Friday morning to prevent people marching from the rural areas around the capital into the city.

Wissam Tarif, director of the Insan human rights organization, said snipers were visible in several Damascus suburbs, including Harasta, Daraya, and Douma from where protesters had tried to march into the center of the capital in the last two weeks, only to be met by bullets.

There is one unconfirmed report from a human rights group that Iran's Revolutionary Guards are assisting the Syrian army with the crackdown. This would make sense as the Rev Guards have a lot of experience in putting down protestors by murdering them.

No one knows the death toll from the demonstrations but conservative estimates put it at 300. And what is the US response to this slaughter? We have issued the dreaded "strongly worded statement" to the Syrian government.

Marco Rubio thinks we should be doing more. From his op-ed in Foreign Policy:

Clearly, we should be on the side of the Syrian people longing for freedom and challenging the regime's corrupt and repressive rule. Unfortunately, the Obama administration's hesitancy to weigh in has been mistaken for indecision at best and indifference at worst. The president needs to speak directly to the Syrian people to communicate American support for their legitimate demands, condemn Assad's murderous campaign against innocent civilians, and sternly warn Assad and his cohorts that they cannot continue grossly violating human rights, supporting terrorism, and sowing instability among Syria's neighbors.

But his words must be backed by clear, firm actions. As ill-advised as it was to restore diplomatic relations with Syria by sending an American ambassador to Damascus last year, we should now sever ties and recall the ambassador at once. While Syria is already under heavy U.S. sanctions as a designated state sponsor of terror, we should expand sanctions to include persons identified as authorizing, planning, or participating in deplorable human rights violations against unarmed civilians. Our partners in Europe, Turkey, and the Arab Gulf share many of our interests in Syria and play a large role in that country, and the president must put the full diplomatic weight of the United States behind an effort to convince them to adopt meaningful economic and diplomatic sanctions targeting Assad and his enablers in the regime.

Exit question: Who do you think exhibits more statesmanship; President Obama or a first term senator?



It's Friday in Syria - a day of prayer and protest as tens of thousands of Syrians poured into the streets in cities and towns all over the country calling for an end to the rule of Bashar Assad.

Reuters:

"The people want the overthrow of the regime!" demonstrators chanted in the Damascus suburb of Saqba, a witness said, defying violent repression in which 500 people have been killed since the nationwide protests broke out in Deraa last month.

Demonstrations erupted on Friday in the central cities of Homs and Hama, Banias on the Mediterranean coast, Qamishly in eastern Syria and Harashta, a Damascus suburb. Shots were heard in coastal Latakia and two small protests broke out in Damascus, witnesses, an opposition leader and a human rights group said.

In Deraa, Syrian soldiers fired shots in the air to prevent people attending Friday prayers or protesting, a resident told Reuters. Another said busloads of people were heading to Deraa from nearby villages, trying to converge for demonstrations.

"The snipers are on rooftops of buildings firing at anything that moves. They are preventing people from going to the streets," Abu Mohammad told Al Jazeera television.

Witnesses said roads into Damascus were closed on Friday morning to prevent people marching from the rural areas around the capital into the city.

Wissam Tarif, director of the Insan human rights organization, said snipers were visible in several Damascus suburbs, including Harasta, Daraya, and Douma from where protesters had tried to march into the center of the capital in the last two weeks, only to be met by bullets.

There is one unconfirmed report from a human rights group that Iran's Revolutionary Guards are assisting the Syrian army with the crackdown. This would make sense as the Rev Guards have a lot of experience in putting down protestors by murdering them.

No one knows the death toll from the demonstrations but conservative estimates put it at 300. And what is the US response to this slaughter? We have issued the dreaded "strongly worded statement" to the Syrian government.

Marco Rubio thinks we should be doing more. From his op-ed in Foreign Policy:

Clearly, we should be on the side of the Syrian people longing for freedom and challenging the regime's corrupt and repressive rule. Unfortunately, the Obama administration's hesitancy to weigh in has been mistaken for indecision at best and indifference at worst. The president needs to speak directly to the Syrian people to communicate American support for their legitimate demands, condemn Assad's murderous campaign against innocent civilians, and sternly warn Assad and his cohorts that they cannot continue grossly violating human rights, supporting terrorism, and sowing instability among Syria's neighbors.

But his words must be backed by clear, firm actions. As ill-advised as it was to restore diplomatic relations with Syria by sending an American ambassador to Damascus last year, we should now sever ties and recall the ambassador at once. While Syria is already under heavy U.S. sanctions as a designated state sponsor of terror, we should expand sanctions to include persons identified as authorizing, planning, or participating in deplorable human rights violations against unarmed civilians. Our partners in Europe, Turkey, and the Arab Gulf share many of our interests in Syria and play a large role in that country, and the president must put the full diplomatic weight of the United States behind an effort to convince them to adopt meaningful economic and diplomatic sanctions targeting Assad and his enablers in the regime.

Exit question: Who do you think exhibits more statesmanship; President Obama or a first term senator?