The situation in Syria is quickly going beyond the point of no return. By denouncing all forms of protest as sedition, and dealing with them through escalating violence, the regime is closing the door on any possible honourable exit to a deepening national crisis. With little the international community can do, the optimal outcome is one whose chances are dwindling by the day: an immediate end to the violence and a genuine national dialogue to pave the way for a transition to a representative, democratic political order.
Over the past several weeks, a number of Syrians have taken to the streets chiefly to express frustration over their worsening economic predicament, outrage at the brutality and unaccountability of the security forces, and solidarity with parts of the country that have witnessed the fiercest forms of repression.
For a time, the regime acknowledged the existence of legitimate grievances. But it has now reverted to its initial characterisation of the protests as a global conspiracy, lumping together the U.S., Israel, Syria’s Arab enemies in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular, former regime officials and home-grown fundamentalists. Official media tell a tale in which the security apparatus features as sole victim, persecuted by armed groups, innocent of any misdeed and striving to uphold national unity. The regime blames all casualties on its foes -- agents provocateurs and, more recently, jihadis. Gruesome pictures of dead (and sometimes mutilated) bodies of security officials lie at the core of this narrative. The regime once paid tribute to civilian casualties as well. Ominously, no more.More...