Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sanctions & Mistakes

As the U.S. imposes sanctions on Assad and provides him with an ultimatum: reform or leave, the latter speaks of “mistakes” made by his security officials.

Tuesday 18, 2011

8 more dead in Tal Kalakh amidst continued shelling.

More nightly demonstrations took place in Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Damascus.

The student protests in Aleppo over the last three days left 350 casualties and led to the arrest of more than 1,000 students, according to eyewitness reports.

The towns of Ankhel and Jassem in the Deraa Governorate are still under military siege, and mass arrests continue throughout the country.

Almost every major community across Syria, other than Aleppo and Damascus, observed the calls for the general strike issued by opposition forces yesterday.

In statements published by the Syrian daily Al-Watan, Assad is quoted as acknowledging the occurrence of some “mistakes” in the way his security officers dealt with the protests. He blamed this on their unpreparedness to handle situations like these.

Earlier in the day, Switzerland issued sanctions against 13 Syrian officials, including Maher Al-Assad, Assef Shawkat and Rami Makhlouf. Shortly after, the US issued sanctions against Bashar Al-Assad himself, his VP, the PM and 5 other Syrian officials.



If 1,000 dead protesters, 10,000 detainees and systematic torture can all be dismissed as ‘mistakes,” perhaps it is Bashar that should be dismissed as the biggest mistake of all, perhaps thinking him a reformer and engaging him was a mistake, perhaps the time has come for this mistake to be “corrected.” World leaders should call on Assad to step down!


While sanctions issued by the U.S. on Bashar Al-Assad and his top officials might be largely symbolic, considering that none of them is likely to have major assets under U.S. jurisdiction, the symbolism is nonetheless quite important. For the sanctions do undermine the legitimacy of Bashar Al-Assad leaving one avenue for future escalation: calling for his departure.


Assad has now been effectively presented with a “reform or leave” ultimatum, one that is likely to be endorsed by the EU when it imposes its own sanctions on Assad in the near future. Of course the EU sanctions will be more than symbolic, once they are implemented, because it is in Europe that the Assads keep most of their assets. Though tracking these assets may not be easy, and the sanctions may not have an immediate impact on the ability of the Assads and their determination to forge ahead with the violent crackdown against the protest movement, the delegitimization of the Assads will come as a shot in the arm for the country’s protesters who have been calling on the international community to support them.


In this light, it will be interesting to hear what President Obama will say about the situation in Syria in his address scheduled for tomorrow. My colleagues and I have been invited to attend the event, and that in itself might be taken as a positive sign. We should soon find out.




Tal Kalakh / May 18: sounds of shelling and gunfire in the morning (halfway through the video)

Homs / May 18: “No rule lasts forever, o Bashar Al-Assad”

“Fly high o bird, bye, bye Bashar, sweet dreams” “leave, leave”  “the people want to topple the regime”

“the people want to topple the regime” “we take death but never humiliation”

Homs / Souk Maskouf / May 18: general strike in action

Homs / Dablan & Down town area/ May 18: general strike in action

Homs / Khaldiyyeh: anti-regime vigil

Homs / Rastan / May 18: speaker names different Syrian institutions and officials, including Bashar Al-Assad, while the people repeat “traitor.” Then they all sing “Bashar Al-Assad is a traitor.” Other chants: “no rule lasts forever, your days are numbered o Bashar Al-Assad”

“people of the capital, we want a decisive Friday… o, Damascus, take over the presidential palace…”

“Say it loud: either we live in dignity or we die”

Homs / Talbisseh / May 18: “the people want to topple the regime”

Aleppo / University of Aleppo Campus / May 18: anti-regime vigil. Students chant: “Why are you afraid?” just as security officers begin attacking and arresting them.

Idlib / Kafrouma and Kafar Nabol / May 18: a motorcycle demonstration. “the people want to topple the regime”

Lattakia / May 18: tank column heading towards Banyas

Hama / May 18

Qamishly / May 18

“God, Syria, Freedom”

Damascus / Midan / May 18: anti-regime vigil. Chant: “the people want to topple the regime” “down with Bashar Al-Assad”

Damascus / Mouaddamiyyah / May 18: a silent protest by the neighborhood womenfolk demanding release of their men.

Damascus / Qaboun / May 18: “O Maher, get out, get out, the Syrian people will not fall apart”

Deraa / Nawa / May 5: Despite being under siege for weeks, and despite deadly repeated incursion by army tanks and troops, the residents of Nawa still come out at every opportunity to chant: “the people want to topple the regime.” Right now, Nawa is “occupied,” as the local residents put it, but soon they want to stage protests similar to this one.

Hama / Hilfaya / May 17: “We’re marching towards Paradise, as millions of martyrs” “the people want to topple the regime”

Hama / Al-Sirjawi Mosque / May 17: anti-regime vigil