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The New York Times uses laconic language to describe "Syrian government supporters" in the item below, but for the more blunt-minded among us, this (the violence today in the Syrian capital) is what happens when a terror-minded regime gets offended or angry or both. And it's likely to get more violent as the ruling clique - the Basher al-Assad family, clan, tribe and retainers from the minority Alawite elite - find themselves more and more pushed into a nasty corner by violent opponents all over Syria.
U.S. Embassy in Syria Is Attacked By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: July 11, 2011 BEIRUT (AP) - Syrian government supporters smashed windows at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus on Monday, raised a Syrian flag and scrawled graffiti calling the American ambassador a "dog" in anger over the envoy's visit last week to an opposition stronghold, witnesses said.French Embassy security guards in the capital fired in the air to hold back supporters of President Bashar Assad's regime who were also protesting the French ambassador's visit to the same city, Hama, in central Syria. Protesters smashed embassy windows and shattered the windshield of a diplomatic SUV outside the compound. The French flag was removed and replaced with a Syrian one."God, Syria and Bashar. The nation that gave birth to Bashar Assad will not kneel," read graffiti written outside the embassy. One witness said three protesters were injured when guards beat them with clubs. The witness asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation. There was no immediate word on casualties among protesters at the American Embassy demonstration.
"Syria, unlike Mubarak’s Egypt, is a real totalitarian regime. The rulers believe, and experience has taught them, that violence and intimidation always wins. It is the kind of government that President Barack Obama and the well-meaning peace processers and those holding university degrees in conflict resolution can’t understand. It is Saddam Hussein’s Iraq without any more-human face. This is a regime that sponsors terrorism to kill Americans in Iraq. It has sponsored terrorism against Israel for 50 years and continues to do so. It has assassinated political leaders, journalists, and judges in Lebanon. A few blocks away from where visiting U.S. officials a few months ago were tweeting about the wonderful coffee in cafes, dissidents were being tortured... The previous Bush Administration took a hard line on Syria with sanctions and other pressures. That didn’t work, said the Obama team, so we’re going to try a little tenderness. For 2.5 years it let Syria get away with murder. Senator John Kerry and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi attested to the reformist and moderate nature of this murderous regime. The White House did everything possible to reduce sanctions against Syria. But that didn’t work. The two sides were playing entirely different games. The idea that the United States had not the slightest chance of splitting Syria from its Iranian patron was always absurd but the media and academia largely censored out the multiple, persuasive arguments on that point Only a few days ago, the Syrian ambassador was called into the State Department and told that the United States knew Syrian agents were filming demonstrations in America held by anti-Asad Syrian students and Syrian-Americans. Can anyone doubt that the next step was to intimidate through punishing their relatives back home? ...The attack on the embassy was a response to very mild U.S. criticisms and the visit of the U.S. ambassador to Hama. A Western-style regime, even a dictatorship, would say: Great! The Americans are leaving us alone except for a few gestures and meaningless statements. Let’s play along with them. But this is the Middle East and the Syrian regime demands of the United States and France what it also demands from its own people: total support or they get bludgeoned into submission."
Rubin's take is:
"We cannot know for sure. I would emphasize that the chances are lower than in Egypt. Other organized political forces exist. Forty percent of the country is not Sunni Arab Muslim and would oppose an Islamist regime. The figure in Egypt is 10 percent, and they are all Christians who have absolutely no political influence... [but] this is only the beginning."He predicts there will be an upsurge of anti-Americanism, and reminds us that for despots like al-Assad, it always works out better when you are feared than when you are liked.
On the whole, having Canada, New Zealand or Switzerland as your neighbour is a lot less complicated. But that experience also tends to get you to make serious mistakes about what to expect from the country next door when, as in our case, it happens to be run by people who are terrorists in every sense of that word.