Threats to Syrian and Jordanian Regimes
by IPT News • Mar 28, 2011 at 4:49 pm
Jordan's regime is teetering on the brink, according to local experts, as others question what Syria would be like without President Bashar al-Assad. Demonstrations in the region have gained pace, with both governments struggling to rapidly respond to protesters' demands.
"The King must intervene and come up with a political initiative accepting the demands of the protesters, including constitutional reform," Fahed Al-Khitan, a political columnist with Jordan's Al-Arab Al-Yawm, told The Media Line. "If reform does not take place, the sense of animosity could lead to clashes between citizens."
Jordanian reformists were disappointed by Sunday's parliamentary vote, which rejected limiting the king's constitutional authorities. "The king is strong in the constitution," an official statement read, and we will see to it that he remains strong to safeguard Jordanian identity."
The Jordanian government response has been decidedly more peaceful than other Arab revolutions, despite the tension. "The freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are constitutional rights as long as they are peaceful, civilised and do not harm people," Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit said in a statement on the state-run Petra news agency.
"Carrying firearms, bats, stones and sharp tools as well as attempts to prevent peaceful demonstrations are condemned. They harm Jordan's image and reform drive," Bakhit said in response to government loyalists bearing arms against reformist protestors on Saturday. The day before, one bystander was killed when security forces attempted to break up violent clashes between pro and anti-government rallies.
Syria has been far more aggressive, brutally reacting to demonstrations that took shape on March 16th, deploying soldiers at rallies and opening fire on protesters in cities such as Latakia and Daraa. However, Assad also freed mostly Islamist political prisoner and agreed to lift the nation's emergency law, which has been in place since March 1963.
Serious instability may not be that far away, as residents in the heterogeneous city of Latakia took up arms and manned checkpoints in the city following the crackdown. Violence may not immediately collapse the regime, but it "will embolden the majority-Sunni population and Kurdish minority, who deeply resent the political dominance of the Alawi minority, to protest," said Barak Seener, a research fellow with the Royal United Services Institute in London.
An unnamed Lebanese political commentator told the Christian Science Monitor that the rise of a Sunni-dominated state, as opposed to the current regime's Alawi Shiite leadership, "would represent a clear and severe blow to Hezbollah, Iran, and to some degree Hamas."
Other commentators argue that Syria's links to terror would not disappear overnight. "A new regime in Syria definitely will have an effect [on the region], but it depends on the nature of the new regime," said Ahmad Moussalli, a professor of politics at the American University of Beirut. "Syria holds the cards of Iran, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas, and whatever regime rules in Syria, it will not want to throw away those cards for nothing."