Syrian opposition organizers declared today a day of protest, which had the Bashar Assad regime on high alert, warning foreign journalists to ignore the demonstrations or else, as the Weekly Standard’s Lee Smith notes. It hardly mattered, as Syrians marched in the street — and brought their cell phones. Two videos have already gone up on YouTube showing significant participation during both daylight and evening hours. Keep an eye out especially for the cell phones held aloft in the crowds as protesters record the demonstrations:
It’s impossible to know the nature of the opposition in these marches, unless one speaks Arabic, and even then it sounds mainly like slogans rather than political declarations. The Assad regime keeps a tight leash on demonstrations, unless they want to send their own message. The crowds here appear to be careful not to do anything provocative enough to draw a response, but it might not take much to provoke Assad or his security apparatus, either.
Let’s hope the protesters can push Assad aside on their own, because they won’t get any help from the West:
Hopes of quickly establishing a no-fly zone over Libya were dashed in Paris Wednesday when leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations declined to adopt the measure.
Instead, the G8 foreign ministers called on the United Nations Security Council to examine further sanctions against Libya, including economic ones, but made no mention of a possible military action against Col. Gadhafi’s regime, including the setting up of a no fly zone.
The G-8 agreed “that the U.N. Security Council should increase the pressure, including through economic measures, for Moammar Gadhafi to leave,” G-8 foreign ministers said in their final statement.
Lebanon, the only Arab country that is a Security Council member, on Monday began conferring on a draft resolution for the no-fly zone over the weekend, but it remained unclear whether if it would get the necessary votes. The draft is based on a proposal approved by the Arab League.
Lebanon can certainly make the proposal, but it would take the G-8 to conduct a no-fly zone — and they’re apparently not interested, not even after a unanimous (if suspiciously late) plea from the Arab League. More sanctions won’t keep Moammar Gaddafi from annihilating the rebels, which he’s presently doing rather efficiently. Gaddafi issued an ultimatum for surrender or exile today:
Moammar Gadhafi’s forces struck the rebellion’s heartland with airstrikes, missiles and artillery on Tuesday, trying for the first time to take back a city that serves as a crucial gateway for the band of fighters who threatened his four-decade hold on power. Rebels rushed to the front and sent up two rickety airplanes to bomb government ships, as mosques broadcast pleas for help defending the city.
The pro-Gadhafi forces surprised rebels with attacks on two sides of the city of Ajdabiya, and the opposition was outgunned. …
Gadhafi said he expects victory, telling the Italian newspaper Il Giornale that the rebels’ options are closing. “There are only two possibilities: Surrender or run away.”
He said he was not like the Tunisian or Egyptian leaders, who fell after anti-government protests. “I’m very different from them,” he said. “People are on my side and give me strength.”
Bashar Assad is bright enough to draw the obvious conclusion. Engagement and negotiation means demands for removal from the United States and our allies, while brutal crackdowns mean … few lasting consequences from the West. Guess which path we’re most likely to see from dictators in the region from now on.