Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad announced over the weekend that his nation's decades-old emergency law will be lifted within days, meeting a key demand of anti-government protesters. But Assad also said "there will be no pretext to organize protests in Syria" now, and he's preparing new counter-terrorism laws that will give his security forces free reign against the opposition. Is Assad trying to find common ground with the demonstrators, or getting ready to crush them?
Assad is no reformer: Syria's "thug in chief" might be fooling Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with his talk of reform, says Rick Moran at The American Thinker, but his promise to "lift 48 years of emergency rule failed to quell fury on the streets." That's because while Assad was trying to paint himself as the good guy, his security forces were opening fire on protesters at a funeral. That's his idea of reform: "Shoot anyone who even looks like they might oppose you and before too long — no opposition."
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This is only a first step: The scrapping of the emergency law is "good news," says Gulf News in an editorial, but the protesters haven't won yet. Assad is trying to have it "both ways" by promising reform while warning he'll smother "any future protests." There will be no real progress until he recognizes that "not all marchers are out to wreck the state," and that lifting the emergency law was just the first step toward "the comprehensive political reform that Syria needs."
Syria's future is still in Assad's hands: Those who know Assad best say he's not the brute his father and predecessor was, says Rania Abouzeid in TIME. Nevertheless, he is clearly still influenced by the "old guard" held over from his father's regime. Scrapping the emergency law was a "major concession," but for the Syrian crisis to end without a lot more bloodshed, the embattled leader's former admirers say, "Assad the man will have to overrule Assad the president."
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