July 1, 2011

U.S. Plan To Keep Syria's Al Assad

More information on the Obama administration's duplicitous policy in Syria. From Gulf News:

Washington: The US is promoting a roadmap for political reforms in Syria which would transform the regime of Bashar Al Assad but leave him in place for now despite demands for his overthrow during the country's bloody three-month uprising.

Syrian opposition sources have revealed that the US state department has been discreetly encouraging discussion of the unpublished draft document which was circulated at an unprecedented opposition conference held on June 27 in Damascus. The US ambassador is urging dialogue with the regime, the sources say.

Al Assad would oversee what the roadmap calls "a secure and peaceful transition to civil democracy". It calls for tighter control over the security forces, the disbanding of ‘Shabiha' gangs accused of atrocities, the legal right to peaceful demonstrations, extensive media freedoms and the appointment of a transitional assembly.

Law on political parties

The carefully phrased 3,000-word document demands a "clear and frank apology" and accountability for organisations and individuals who "failed to accommodate legitimate protests" and compensation for the families of victims of repression. The opposition says 1,400 people have been killed since mid-March. The government says 500 members of the security forces have died.

It calls for the ruling Baath party to be subject to a new law on political parties though the party would still provide 30 of 100 members for a proposed transitional national assembly. Seventy others would be appointed by the president in consultation with opposition nominees which will still leave Al Assad in a powerful position.

Several of the proposed measures have already been mentioned in public by Al Assad, fueling speculation he is at least partially following through on some recommendations.

The roadmap is signed by Louay Hussain and Maan Abdul Salam, leading secular intellectuals in a group called the National Action Committee.

Both men met the vice-president, Farouk Al Shar'a, before Al Assad's most recent speech, diplomats said. On June 27 they chaired the Damascus conference, which was attended by 150 people and was publicly welcomed by the US.

Strategy will not work

Wael Sawah, another member of the group, is an adviser to the US embassy in Damascus but did not sign the text, apparently so as not to discredit it in the eyes of Syrians suspicious of foreign meddling.

Quiet US backing for the roadmap dovetails with public demands from Washington that Al Assad reform or step down. Robert Ford, the US ambassador, has been urging opposition figures to talk to the regime, said Radwan Ziadeh, a leading exile who insisted the strategy would not work.

"They are asking Bashar to lead the transition and this is not acceptable to the protesters," he said. "It is too late."

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