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Can a 'general amnesty' save Syria's Assad?
Syria's embattled president pardons his political opponents in a new bid to cool protesters' anger. But is it already too late for Assad?
A protester burns a picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on May 13: The embattled leader issued a nationwide pardon for crimes committed during the protests, but public anger has only risen.
A protester burns a picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on May 13: The embattled leader issued a nationwide pardon for crimes committed during the protests, but public anger has only risen.
TOLGA BOZOGLU/epa/Corbis
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yrian President Bashar al-Assad has issued a general pardon for all crimes committed before May 31 — the latest attempt to appease anti-government protesters. But opposition leaders say the amnesty is "too little, too late," especially since it followed a military crackdown that human rights groups say has killed more than 1,000 civilians. If anything, public anger has risen in recent days, after security services returned the horribly mutilated body of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib to his family. At this point, can granting a general amnesty — or any other reform — save the Assad regime? (Watch an Al Jazeera report about Assad's pardon.)

Assad has gone too far: "I simply do not know how the brutal torture of children can be surpassed as an example of pure evil," says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. Assad's cruelty is "morally intolerable, even under the standards of the Middle East." There is little the West can do to help, militarily or economically, but we can express our support for Assad's victims while they fight to get rid of him themselves.
"The evil in Damascus"

The military, not reforms, is saving Assad: The Syrian army's loyalty to Assad has kept his regime secure, says security analyst Timur Gksel, as quoted by the Financial Times. Assad's brother commands the Fourth Armored Division, the military's backbone, so there's no reason to believe he'll lose his soldiers anytime soon. "The army command remains rigid, unified and strong." And with nine mechanized divisions, two special forces units, and his intelligence services, Assad has the resources to broaden his crackdown if he chooses.
"Military loyalty to Assad stems from clans"

Assad can't stop change now: Assad and his security chiefs can continue to impose the rule of their Alawite minority over the predominantly Sunni protesters, says Fareed Zakaria at CNN, but that will only postpone the inevitable fall of his regime. His only alternative is enacting "deep political reforms that could convince the protesters to return home but would end the Alawite-led system on which he so heavily relies." Either way, the Assad regime as it existed before the protests is history.
"Washington should plan for a post-Assad Syria"

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