Protests continue in Syria “despite” Assad’s promise of reform. At least that’s how the media put it, as though there was a real chance that the mere verbal statement that reform would occur would be sufficient to end protests. So far reforming his cabinet and releasing political prisoners has not satisfied the opposition.
Notably, protests continue in Deraa, which has experienced the heaviest loss of life to government security forces. Not only aren’t vague promises working, but neither, it seems, is an aggressive crackdown.
Assad has said he will accede to protesters’ demands to lift the decades-old state of emergency, but government officials plan to replace it with anti-terrorism legislation that will probably continue the restrictions on free speech and assembly. Do Syrian government officials think that will satisfy anyone?
But a key wildcard is that Assad seems to have more pro-government supporters than Ben Ali, Mubarak, and Gadaffi. As far as I can tell (reading the news from the other side of the world), pro-government protesters are real, not being sent out by the government.
I can’t make predictions on how this one ends, but I’ll go just far enough out on a limb to predict it’s going to involve a significant amount of bloodshed (i.e., I’ve got my arms wrapped tightly around the tree trunk, with one foot on that limb).