Assad rebuffs Turkish envoy’s plea to end crackdown

The New York Times reports:

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria rebuffed an appeal from Turkey on Tuesday to end the Syrian crackdown that has emerged as one of the bloodiest chapters in the Arab uprising and has plunged his country into its deepest isolation in years.

Mr. Assad said in a statement after a six-hour meeting with Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, that his government would press ahead with its fight against militant Islamists, the term the government has often used to describe the instigators of an uprising that began in March and has posed the gravest challenge to Mr. Assad’s rule.

Sana, Syria’s state news agency, quoted Mr. Assad as telling Mr. Davutoglu that Damascus “will not relent in pursuing the terrorist groups in order to protect the stability of the country and the security of the citizens.”

“But it is also determined to continue reforms. And is open to any help offered by friendly and brotherly states,” the statement published by Sana said.

The Turkish foreign minister arrived in Syria on Tuesday morning to deliver a message that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has summarized as Ankara’s having “run out of patience” with a crackdown that has killed, by the count of some Syrian opposition groups, more than 2,000 people.

The Associated Press reports:

The Obama administration is preparing to explicitly demand the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad and hit his regime with tough new sanctions, U.S. officials said Tuesday as the State Department signaled for the first time that American efforts to engage the government are finally over.

The White House is expected to lay out the tougher line by the end of this week, possibly on Thursday, according to officials who said the move will be a direct response to Assad’s decision to step up the ruthlessness of the crackdown against pro-reform demonstrators by sending tanks into opposition hotbeds. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal administration deliberations.

President Barack Obama and other top U.S. officials previously had said Assad has “lost legitimacy” as a leader and that he either had to spearhead a transition to democracy or get out of the way. They had not specifically demanded that he step down. The new formulation will make it clear that Assad can no longer be a credible reformist and should leave power, the officials said.

Rana Kabbani writes:

One of two eye doctors are determining the future of Syria. The first is alive and kicking: son of a brutal military dictator; heir to a corrupt family junta that has ruled the country for 41 years. The second is a long-dead private citizen, buried at the bottom of his family’s modest garden.

Dr Hikmat Khani was head of Hama’s national hospital when, in 1982, his city was besieged and bombarded on the orders of Bashar Assad’s father Hafiz and his uncle Rif’at. To rout 1,500 armed Islamists there, the Assads killed 25,000 innocent civilians. Tens of thousands were rounded up and tortured. Young girls were gang-raped and women had their hands chopped off so their bracelets could be stolen more quickly after their men had been murdered.

The maimed lay on the streets of the half-flattened city, crying out in agony, as many eyewitnesses have recounted since. Dr Khani sought to help what wounded he could treat. For this, he was taken to the state porcelain factory, which had been turned into a detention centre. There, this renowned specialist was made an example of in front of the other prisoners. He had his right eye gouged out, then was left to bleed for three hours before being beaten to death. His broken mess of a body was sent to his pregnant wife, with his identity card nailed to his naked chest.

Today Hama is being bombarded in much the same way by Bashar and Maher, with weaponry paid for by an impoverished Syrian people through the stiff “defence tax”. It is thus that Deraa, Deir Ezzor, Qamishli, Homs, Hama, Latakia, Maarat al-Numan, Idlib, Jisr al-Shughour, Muadhamiya, Zabadani, Midan and all our other towns and cities and quarters have been made to subsidise the murder of their own sons and daughters.

Though all the undemocratic regimes of the Arab world are unremittingly cruel, Assad’s must stand out as the most inventively macabre. Its brutish, uncouth, illiterate and famously greedy Shabbiha death squads are being bussed around the country, with orders to rape, loot, burn, and kill. It is they who pull out the fingernails of young boys, they who torture them to death, castrate their bodies, only to force their grief-crazed parents to recant their accusations on the state’s propaganda television.

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