Protesters came out in rural towns such as Amouda and Deraa again on Friday, calling for the ouster of the Baath regime of Bashar al-Asad. Some reports estimated that hundreds of thousands of people came out to rallies. Homs and Hama also bulked large in these protests, apparently, though it is hard to be sure about numbers and significance because Syria has placed extensive restrictions on journalists. Human rights groups estimated that 24 persons were killed as the regime repressed the demonstrations.
Meanwhile, as the US ratcheted up its financial sanctions on the regime, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that Syria “must reform.”
Although Mrs. Clinton maintains that time is not on al-Asad’s side, two things would need to happen for the protests to effect major genuine change. First, they’d need to occur in much greater numbers in Damascus and Aleppo. People demonstrating in Laramie, Wyoming, would be unlikely to overturn the government in Washington, DC. Although there was a protest in the Qaboun district of Damascus on Friday, it wan’t very big.
Second, there would have to be a significant split in the security forces, especially the officer corps. Either the generals would have to turn on Bashar or they would have to divide among themselves even more than they have already done.
In the absence of enormous crowds in the streets of the capital and a split military, it will be very hard for the protesters to prevail.
The USG Open Source Center rounds up Syrian reports of unrest online:
‘ Roundup of Syrian Web Reports on Unrest 1 Jul 11
Syria — OSC Summary
Friday, July 1, 2011 The following is a roundup of reports from various Syrian opposition and pro-government news websites, highlighting reports related to the current unrest and military developments in Syria:
All4Syria reports that Syrian Army tanks have deployed in new areas in the Idlib Governorate “on the eve of the planned ‘Jum’at Irhall’ (Departure Friday) protests.” The report says that widespread protests are expected today “now that Aleppo has entered the scene of protests and demonstrations.” The report also indicates that the people of Aleppo came out on extensive protests on 30 June.
(Dubai All4Syria in Arabic — Website providing news from inside Syria and comments by both government and opposition figures, run by reformist Ba’th Party member Ayman Abd-al-Nur; URL: http://www.all4syria.org)
All4Syria features a 30 June report, citing the press statement that was issued by US Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who recently visited Syria on a fact-finding mission, refuting a report published by the official Syrian News Agency, SANA and picked up by the National Public Radio, NPR, that had quoted Kucinich as saying that “President Al-Asad enjoys much love and appreciation by the Syrians” and that he “cares very much about what is happening in Syria and is evidently seeking to create a new Syria.” The report highlighted Kucinich’s argument that SANA’s report was “mistranslated and does not reflect directly what he had said.” Al-Haqiqah also features a similar report under the headline “US Congressman Dennis Kucinich accuses Syrian media of distorting his remarks.” (Al-Haqiqah in Arabic, Website published by the opposition France-based Syrian National Council for Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation; URL: http://www.syriatruth.info )
All4Syria features an Agence France Presse, AFP, report citing remarks by NATO’s secretary general on 30 June in Vienna, saying that “NATO does not intend to intervene in Syria, but condemns the security forces’ actions with civilians.”
All4Syria briefly highlights remarks made by Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, on 30 June, saying that “American and Israeli hands are behind the ongoing events in Syria.”
The same report was picked up by Sham Press. (Damascus Sham Press in Arabic — Website affiliated with the Independent Media Group in Damascus, managed by Ba’thist journalist Ali Jamalu; URL: http://www.champress.net )
Al-Haqiqah cites an unnamed military source regarding “a tendency to begin the withdrawal of some army units from inside the cities within the next 48 hours.” The report cites a different unnamed political source, who confirmed this information and added that the withdrawal “would also be for political reasons, because the regime wants to give indications of good intentions to the opposition before 10 July, the date set for launching the national dialogue.”
Sham Press publishes a report on 30 June that highlights, with photographs, the Syrian president and his wife’s 30 June meeting with a group of youth involved in the campaign of “Raising the Largest Syrian Flag.” The report cites some of the young organizers’ comments about the three and a half hour meeting, describing it as “candid and transparent” and stating that the president “listened to the campaign’s details,” “praised their active role,” and “promised to support their ideas.” The report also cites the campaign’s organizers as saying that “the project is novel and the idea is good, because it is a visual and real way to respond to the foreign conspiracy that seeks to undermine Syria, its national stances, and its leader.”
A Sham Press report on 30 June cites “a senior military source” on a “highly accurate, bold, and brave operation” carried out by the Syrian special forces on the afternoon of 30 June “to liberate” some officers and soldiers, who “had been captured in an ambush by armed terrorist elements” two days ago in Jabal al-Zawiyah. The source added that the operation was concluded “without any loss of life.”
Syria News on 30 June reports very briefly about the “return of 140 people from the Turkish camps to Jisr Al-Shaghur city” on 30 June. (Damascus Syria News in Arabic — A privately-owned news website, providing independent reporting on domestic issues; URL: http://www.syria-news.com )
A 30 June report on Syria News briefly cites an “informed” source on the railroad association’s decision to “suspend all its train journeys in Syria until 2 July for security reasons.”
The Muslim Brotherhood website publishes a report about developments in Syria on 30 June. The report says that “thousands of Syrians” staged a protest in Aleppo, and that Syrian forces “stormed” more villages in northern Syria. The report indicates that protests “started again” in many Syrian towns and cities, and that students staged a demonstration in front of the Economy Department at Damascus University, and three were arrested. The report also features details about the opposition’s formation of a “national coordination organization aimed at making democratic national changes in Syria.”
(Muslim Brotherhood in Syria in Arabic — Official website of the Muslim Brotherhood Group in Syria; URL: http://www.ikhwansyria.com/ ) ‘