…and the protests continue, only more intensely, with 14 more killed this week. Anthony Shahid reports a few interesting developments:
The Syrian government has sent signals to allies, in particular neighboring Turkey, that it is prepared to undertake some reform and begin a dialogue with opponents. But after a series of half-hearted concessions — sweeping in rhetoric but negligible in impact — the government repeatedly has met protesters with tear gas and live fire and sent its security forces to arrest thousands, by activists’ count, sometimes going door to door and randomly picking up any man older than 15.
The government has dismissed the estimates, saying it is engaged in a fight with militant Islamists, and American officials acknowledge that some protesters have been armed. Syrian television is suffused with images of soldiers’ burials. On Sunday, the Syrian news agency said that the authorities had seized sophisticated weapons and that the army was pursuing “armed terrorist groups” in Baniyas and elsewhere.
“The upper hand is with the hard-liners,” said Radwan Ziadeh, a Syrian human rights advocate who is a visiting scholar at George Washington University. “Now the official discourse is that we are in a period of instability, that we have to restore stability and that we can then talk again about reform. This is the official language.”
Though the government appears to feel more secure — at least compared with two weeks ago — it faces a landscape indelibly changed by the seven weeks of unrest. The economy is reeling, threatening the government’s support among the economic elite and undermining the longstanding promise by the government of economic modernization, if not political reform.