On Thursday, President Obama will be giving an address to the Muslim world. To say it will be important is an understatement. The most dramatic shifts in the world since the collapse of the Soviet Union are happening in the Arab world today.
On Sunday, a source of mine that will remain anonymous informed me that President Obama will call on Syrian President Assad to step down and the assets of him and his family will be frozen. If he does this, it will be exciting to see how it impacts the regime and the Syrian population on Friday. It is probably not a mistake that Obama chose a Thursday to give the speech. However, I saw another report citing “multiple sources familiar with the administration’s thinking” as saying Obama will NOT call on Assad to step down.
In other news, a senior British official says that it is “highly likely” that the International Criminal Court will indict Assad.
The Reform Party of Syria reports that nearly half of the Kuwaiti Parliament wants to expel the Syrian ambassador after the Assad regime denied Kuwaiti humanitarian aid. The army has also entered the town of Kanaker, killing 3. RPS notes it is only three kilometers away from the Golan Heights, so this may have something to do with the Nakba Day incursion. It is possible the local population reacted to the provocation by protesting the regime.
On May 16, four mass graves were discovered in Daraa, the city that sparked the uprising. Up to 40 bodies were found and included women and children.
The protests are continuing, with the largest demonstration in the Damascus suburb of Saqba taking place yesterday since the crackdown on the area three weeks ago. The rally happened at the funeral of a 26-year old protester that was killed by the regime. Refugees are still entering Lebanon following the casualties in Talkalakh. On Sunday, at least 6 were killed and two others died in Lebanon later, including a soldier who defected.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is trying to make up for the time it lost because of its delayed endorsement of the uprising. A London-based spokesman for the Islamist group says “We have a desire to coordinate the position of the opposition.” Brotherhood activists based in Turkey are now active in supporting the opposition in Syria.
The Syrian Brotherhood has been organizing in Turkey and has put together a conference in Cairo. This will cause the U.S. to second-guess supporting the overthrow of Assad, but as I’ve written, the general estimate of the Brotherhood’s support in Syria is 15 to 20 percent. A democratically-elected parliament in Syria that has the Brotherhood occupying one-fifth of the seats is still a big improvement over the current status quo.
Hopefully, the Brotherhood’s efforts to organize and lead the Syrian opposition will spur the secular liberals to form a common front and convince the West that it is best to reach out to these secular opposition forces.
The overall death toll is now believed to have surpassed 1,000 and over 10,000 have been arrested.