Monday, December 19, 2011

Syria: The Forgotten--Including by the Obama Administration--Revolution

By Barry Rubin

I feel guilty every day that I don’t write about Syria’s revolution.  There are massive numbers of demonstrators taking high risks and often paying with their lives; there is a higher proportion of really democratic-minded people than in other Arab countries; and there is general international indifference to their battle in contrast to the “glamor” surrounding the far-shorter, much less bloody Egyptian uprising. The estimated death toll is over 4000 though, of course, nobody knows for sure.

In contrast to Egypt, and partly due to the inability of journalists to cover the story, the Syrian insurgents aren’t made into celebrities. And, curiously, the regime that is repressing them isn’t stigmatized anywhere near what happened to the far less repressive governments in Egypt and Tunisia or even, for that matter, democratic Israel.

Much of the news is the bare stuff about lists of demonstrations and acts of repression. At the end of this article I have appended the story of one province on one day alone to give some sense of the magnitude of the battle.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration, so eager to overthrow friendly regimes in Bahrain, Egypt, and Tunisia, has a peculiar disinterest about doing more against the hostile regime in Syria. Of course, for almost three years the U.S. government considered that anti-American, terrorist-sponsoring, repressive regime to be friendly or at least potentially so. For the U.S. government to do more, I'm not talking about military intervention but far more basic efforts.

As Tony Badran writes in Lebanon Now: “It became obvious that four months after President Barack Obama called for Bashar al-Assad’s departure, his administration has yet to develop a policy to achieve that objective.” U.S. officials sound as if they are advocating conciliation between the regime and opposition, something they never sought in Egypt or Tunisia.

In addition, rather than have a real independent policy, the Obama Administration seems just to be following the Arab League’s lead. Yet, as Badran explains, by continually minimizing what it is willing to do the Obama Administration even undercuts the Arab League’s leverage.

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