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NEWS
July 12, 2012 | By Christopher Torchia, Associated Press
ISTANBUL, Turkey - The Syrian ambassador to Iraq has defected, denouncing President Bashar al-Assad in a TV statement Wednesday, becoming the most senior diplomat to abandon the regime during a bloody 16-month uprising. Nawaf Fares, a former provincial governor, is the second prominent Syrian to break with the regime in less than a week. Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, an Assad confidant and son of a former defense minister, fled Syria last week, buoying Western powers and anti-regime activists, who expressed hope that other high-ranking defections would follow.
NEWS
July 7, 2012 | By Bradley Klapper and Elaine Ganley, Associated Press
PARIS - A top Syrian general's defection is the first major crack in the upper echelons of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, buoying a 100-nation conference Friday meant to intensify pressure for his removal, as well as an opposition desperate to bring him down but frustrated by diplomatic efforts. All hoped the defection of Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, an Assad confidant and son of a former defense minister who helped ease Assad into power, would have a snowball effect on his elite cohorts as Syrians count their dead - now more than 14,000.
NEWS
May 3, 2013 | By Zeina Karam, Associated Press
BEIRUT - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies are showing renewed confidence that the momentum in the civil war is shifting in their favor, due in part to the rapid rise of al-Qaeda-linked extremists among the rebels and the world's reluctance to take forceful action to intervene in the fighting. His invigorated regime has gone on the offensive - both on the ground and in its portrayal of the conflict as a choice between Assad and the extremists. Several factors appear to have convinced Assad he can weather the storm: Two years into the uprising against his family's iron rule, his regime remains firmly entrenched in Damascus, the defection rate from the military has dwindled, and key international supporters Russia and China are still solidly on his side.
NEWS
January 8, 2013 | By Barbara Surk, Associated Press
BEIRUT - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday expressed disappointment with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for rejecting the most important elements of an international road map to end the country's civil war - a political handover and establishment of a transitional governing body. Assad in a rare speech Sunday outlined his own vision for ending the country's conflict with a plan that would keep him in power. He also dismissed any chance of dialogue with the armed opposition and called on Syrians to fight what he called "murderous criminals.
NEWS
March 16, 2012 | By Elizabeth A. Kennedy, Associated Press
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Thousands of Syrians rallied Thursday in Damascus in a display of loyalty to President Bashar al-Assad, waving flags under a slate-gray sky to protest the anniversary of a rebellion that the government says is driven by terrorists and gangsters. Outside the Syrian capital, however, tanks and snipers besieged opposition areas, including the southern city of Daraa, where the uprising began a year ago, touched off by the arrest of a group of youths who scrawled antiregime graffiti on a wall.
NEWS
September 24, 2012 | By Albert Aji and Zeina Karam, Associated Press
DAMASCUS, Syria - Syrian opposition figures who reject foreign intervention in Syria's 18-month conflict called for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad at a rare meeting Sunday in the nation's capital. The gathering was tolerated by the regime in an apparent attempt to lend credibility to its claims that it remains open to political reform despite its bloody crackdown on dissent. A senior former Assad ally, meanwhile, said Iran is providing massive support for the embattled Syrian regime.
NEWS
August 9, 2011 | By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Syria's neighbors have turned decisively against President Bashar al-Assad, launching a diplomatic campaign against his crackdown on the country's pro-democracy movement that analysts say could have a major effect on important pillars of Assad's support. Even as Syrian armed forces pushed against several opposition strongholds Monday, international action against the government mushroomed. Western countries so far have led efforts to stop the violent crackdown, including a U.N. Security Council statement last week that condemned the offensive.
NEWS
August 22, 2011 | By Hannah Allam and Ipek Yezdani, McClatchy Newspapers
CAIRO - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday repeated promises of changes and warned of "repercussions" should the West intervene militarily in the uprising threatening his family's four-decade rule. Assad's remarks during a choreographed question-and-answer session that aired live on state TV did not diverge from the message his regime had sent since the rebellion started in the spring: Change is coming soon, the uprising is the work of militants, and interference from the West is an assault on Syria's sovereignty.
NEWS
September 20, 2013 | By Trudy Rubin, Inquirer Columnist
The Syrian government's continued denial that it gassed its people - in the face of stark evidence to the contrary - reminds me of a chilling experience I had in Damascus in 1982. Rumors were flying that the regime of Hafez al-Assad had massacred at least 10,000 people in the city of Hama, but the government wouldn't let anyone near the site. As I waited in the office of Information Minister Ahmed Iskandar Ahmed, I was stunned to see a large painting on the wall portraying Hama's historic city center, with its famous water wheel in the foreground; this was the exact area that had been obliterated by government shells.
NEWS
May 17, 2012 | By Elizabeth A. Kennedy and Zeina Karam, Associated Press
BEIRUT, Lebanon - In his first interview since December, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad insisted Tuesday that his regime is fighting back against foreign mercenaries who want to overthrow him, not innocent Syrians aspiring for democracy in a yearlong uprising. The interview with Russian TV showed Assad is still standing his ground, despite widespread international condemnation over his deadly crackdown on dissent. "There are foreign mercenaries, some of them still alive," Assad said in an interview broadcast Wednesday on Russian state news channel Rossiya-24.
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NEWS
February 29, 2016 | By Trudy Rubin, Columnist
We've entered an era in which strongmen are in vogue and democracy is taking a hit worldwide. So it's really depressing in this dismal election season to watch how oblivious the leading GOP candidate is to the threats posed by authoritarian rulers. It's equally depressing to watch the GOP - in the battle over replacing Justice Antonin Scalia - undermine the institutional protections that shield us from this global trend. In the last, most raucous Republican debate, Donald Trump said the Middle East would be better off "if we had Saddam Hussein and we had [Moammar]
NEWS
February 12, 2016 | By Trudy Rubin, Columnist
Vladimir Putin seems to be the only leader who knows what he's doing in Syria. While the Obama team was desperately pursuing a diplomatic solution to the conflict, Putin was busy with more practical matters: cementing his proxy Bashar al-Assad in power by military force. Backed by indiscriminate Russian airpower, Syrian troops and foreign fighters trained by Iran have nearly encircled Syria's second-largest city, Aleppo, a key rebel base. At Thursday's talks in Munich, the United States, Russia and other powers agreed on a vague "cessation of hostilities" - not a formal ceasefire - that supposedly will take place in a week.
NEWS
January 20, 2016
SYRIA Russian air strikes tipping the balance Russia's military intervention in Syria is finally generating gains on the ground for Syrian forces, tilting the battlefield in favor of President Bashar al-Assad to such an extent that the Obama administration's quest for a negotiated settlement to the war looks a lot less likely to succeed. The gains are small-scale, hard-won and in terms of territory overall don't add up to much, in keeping with the incremental nature of war. But after 31/2 months of air strikes that have mostly targeted the Western-backed opposition to Assad's rule, they have proved sufficient to push beyond doubt any likelihood that Assad will be removed from power by the nearly five-year-old revolt against his rule.
NEWS
January 4, 2016 | By Trudy Rubin, Inquirer Columnist
After the grim foreign-policy news from the Mideast in 2015, can we hope for anything better in the new year? That would be a relief, after a year in which ISIS thrived amid the Mideast chaos and civil wars that flooded Europe with one million refugees, half of them from Syria. So is there any reason to expect things to improve in 2016? After all, in December the world's major powers agreed on a framework plan for ending the Syrian civil war, right? And the Iraqi army (retrained, yet again, by U.S. officers)
NEWS
December 18, 2015 | By Trudy Rubin, Inquirer Columnist
The most ferocious slugging match at Tuesday's GOP debate didn't feature The bombastic Donald vs. the newly energized Jeb Bush. That, by now, is old stuff. Instead, it pitted Texas Sen. Ted Cruz vs. his fellow Cuban American, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, as they sparred over opposing foreign policy visions - and in the process revealed the growing rift within the GOP over the role America should play in the Middle East. This is big stuff, even though the candidates' errors of fact and Mideast misconceptions were distracting (when in doubt, "bomb, bomb, bomb" seemed to be the common theme.)
NEWS
December 3, 2015
ISSUE | OBAMA AND THE ISLAMIC STATE Restraint isn't 'cowardice' I've never met a military man who didn't think the answer to most world conflicts was more military action by the United States. Retired Marine Col. Paul McHale goes beyond the pale by calling President Obama's caution in Syria "cowardice" ("In face of Islamic State, Obama offers cowardice," Sunday). Hardly. The country is exhausted after 14 years of war, most of it derived from the ill-conceived debacle in Iraq.
NEWS
November 23, 2015 | By Trudy Rubin, Inquirer Columnist
How should the United States respond to Islamic State attacks in Paris? The response from the Republican presidential candidates has been to whip up hysteria over Syrian refugees and hostility toward all Muslims - with rhetoric so repulsive that it shames the country. Ben Carson likened refugees to "rabid dogs," while Donald Trump said he would "absolutely" create a database to track Muslims inside the country. Much easier to play the demagogue than to present a detailed plan. To her credit, Hillary Clinton did just that in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations on Thursday.
NEWS
November 20, 2015
I RARELY WRITE about immigration, partly because I spend enough time practicing immigration law, and partly because my words are taken with a grain of salt the size of that dinosaur-killing meteor. My conservative friends raise their eyebrows in that "We love her, but gosh darn, she should get her head checked" kind of way whenever I champion any form of legalization, while the liberals just flare their nostrils and say "Yeah, the chick is only interested in getting rich off of the poor illegals.
NEWS
November 18, 2015 | Inquirer Editorial Board
Americans can't help but empathize with France in the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attack in Paris Friday, which left more than 120 people dead and many more with serious injuries. Even as we shed tears with the French, we are reminded of 9/11 and the compassionate response of the international community, which bolstered this country's resolve to make the murderers pay for their crime. Emotion has its place, and this is a time for expressing feelings. Yet emotion must be set aside to make clearheaded decisions about an appropriate U.S. response to the massacre apparently engineered by Islamic State.
NEWS
October 2, 2015 | By Trudy Rubin, Inquirer Columnist
In 1992, not long after the Soviet Union collapsed, I wandered through the massive Russian Embassy compound in Damascus. As a center of Soviet power off limits to Westerners, it had been a beehive of activity, with about 5,000 civilian and military advisers. Now it was virtually deserted. As news flows in about the new Russian military buildup in Syria, I can't help thinking how delicious this reversal must be to Vladimir Putin, who has openly rued the collapse of the Soviet Union.
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