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Opposition grows in Syria against Assad regime

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The four month long rebellion against President Bashar Assad and his regime is showing no signs of slowing down, despite the violent crack down which has seen around 1,600 activists killed. Indeed the opposition movement is growing and gaining in strength, with 500,000 people protesting after prayers on Friday 15 July.

Assad has deployed soldiers across the country to crush the uprising but so far with only limited success. There are now reports of defections from the army in some towns, with footage emerging from al-Boukamal of protesters on army tanks chanting "the people and the army are one!".

The mass protests have achieved some reforms, but the protesters want Assad gone. As in other Arab states the opposition forces are a popular movement, made up of secularists, liberals, Islamists and oppressed minorities like the Kurds.

Assad is blaming the uprising on foreign interference and Islamic fundamentalists – the same claims that Gaddafi made in Libya about the opposition movement there. This argument is the logic of all so-called benevolent dictators – they cannot conceive that anyone would be opposed to their rule. But it is clear that the resistance is broad and involves many people across the country – though no doubt there are dubious elements within it. But socialists must be on the side of the resistance movement and support the fight to get rid of Assad and his entire Ba'ath party regime.

Most of the army remains loyal to the regime because it’s commanders are drawn from the minority Alawite religious group, which Assad is also part of. The army and the Ba'ath regime are wielded together and soldiers are afraid of reprisals should the regime fall.

To break the rank and file soldiers from the regime it is necessary to state clearly from the opposition movement that there will be no reprisals against the Alawi’s and that the soldiers should come over to the revolution. Meetings of soldiers should be called to discuss the situation in the country – and soldiers should be defended from any officers that attempt to impose discipline or force them to shoot protesters.

If Assad falls then it will be a tremendous step forward for the people of the Levant region – in countries like Jordan they still slave under a monarchical dictatorship, and a new political alignment in Syria will profoundly affect politics in Lebanon as well.