Can Syria’s Assad Stop Opposition?

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WASHINGTON, July 28 (UPI) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can delay opposition in his country through brutal repression but he can’t stop it, U.S. diplomats said.

Damascus has unveiled a series of political reforms meant to address grievances expressed by anti-government protesters. Recent measures include electoral reforms and a proposal to allow opposition groups to form political parties.

Despite those pledges, however, Syrian forces continue to assault anti-government forces. Human rights groups have reported killings and torture by Syrian security forces. Snipers have allegedly deployed along rooftops of several Syrian towns.

Michael Posner, assistant secretary of state for human rights, and Jeffrey Feltman, assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, told a House subcommittee on the Middle East that despite the repressive tactics by the Assad regime, the Syrian people have continued to act out against the government without fear.

“Beyond demonstrations, we have also seen the opposition organize itself and begin to articulate an agenda for Syria’s future, recognizing that the strongest Syria is one in which all citizens, regardless of faith or ethnicity, are equal participants,” they said in a joint written statement.

U.S. lawmakers have criticized the action of Robert Ford, the U.S. envoy to Damascus who remains active in the country. Both officials said Ford’s work in Syria was vital in order to express U.S. concerns on the ground.

Despite the engagement, it’s up to the Syrian people to chart their own future, they said.

“President Assad can delay or obstruct it but he cannot, however, stop it,” they testified.

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