Thursday, April 14, 2011

Democracy's price may be too high for Syria

Syria is in its fourth week of unrest as anti-government protests persist, and the death toll climbs with 171 killed thus far according to Amnesty International.

Conflicting reports emanating from Syria provide an unclear picture as to who is perpetrating the violence.

Syrian authorities continue to insist that rogue elements, foreign meddling and armed gangs are responsible for the sporadic violence mostly in the restive southern town of Daraa and the coastal city of Latakia. However, witnesses in the coastal region report that Syrian forces have fired indiscriminately on protesters, with widespread accusations of mass detentions and torture.

Confusion surrounds the deadly events of Monday, when nine Syrian soldiers were shot dead in Banias, another coastal town not far from Latakia.

A Guardian report claims that the Syrian soldiers were shot by fellow security officers for refusing to fire on protesters. However, footage of the killings released by Syrian television appears to support the regime's contention that the soldiers were in fact ambushed by snipers from a roof of a nearby building.

The Ba'ath regime has accused exiled rogue elements including former Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam and estranged uncle of the President, Rifa'at al-Assad, of seeking to exploit the unrest by arming militias. The inability to gain a clear understanding of the circumstances in Syria underscores the complexity of the situation.

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