Syria Regime Rocked by Protests

Posted: March 27, 2011 in World News

FARNAZ FASSIHI And JAY SOLOMON
The Wall Street Journal
March 26, 2011

Thousands of protesters demanding political liberalization marched in cities across Syria on Friday, an unprecedented display of public dissent that prompted violent clashes with security forces and left dozens dead and injured, according to witnesses and media reports.

The protests, once unthinkable against a regime believed to have an unshakable grip on security, came a day after President Bashar al-Assad’s government announced economic and political concessions aimed at appeasing protesters and getting them off the streets.

Some U.S., European and Israeli officials saw the potential weakening of Mr. Assad’s government—a close ally of Iran and key player in regional politics— as an important opening to significantly undermine Tehran’s role in the region.

But there remained concerns that the turmoil could usher in more wide-scale bloodshed or, should Mr. Assad fall, another regime hostile to the West.

Syria had seen little unrest before last week, amid months of protests sweeping the Middle East. That has changed dramatically in the past seven days as the arrests of some youths in one southern Syrian town spiraled into violent confrontations in that area and sparked protests across several other major cities, including the capital, Damascus.

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