Jordan's King Calls on Syria's Assad to Step Down

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Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. The uprising in Syria is now in its eighth month and global pressure on the embattled regime is building. Today, Jordan's King Abdullah urged Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad to step down, and the European Union heaped more sanctions in the Assad regime. That's after the surprise decision this weekend by Arab League nations to suspend Syria. Joshua Landis directs the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. He says Syrian opposition activists are looking to the example of an earlier Arab uprising.

Joshua Landis: People are trying to follow the Libya game book in which Gaddafi's money was frozen, they recognized the provisional government, the transitional government, and then they gave all that money to them. And all of the western powers and the Arab League powers recognized the opposition as the legitimate government of Libya. Now, with the Arab League now recognizing the Syrian opposition, increasingly this could mean that they're gonna give money to the Syrian opposition. Now, Syria doesn't have money, they don't have oil money. There have been attempts to freeze all Syrian money abroad, but that only comes to several million dollars so far that they've frozen. So it's not enough money to run a revolution on. The revolution needs money and they're gonna ultimately need support of all kinds; perhaps arms, perhaps training, those things are in the future.

Werman: Right, does this heightened sense of urgency right now make the idea of military intervention more real do you think?

Landis: Yes, I think it does, and you know, all this is down the line, but what it helps to do is to get the Arab League support for the Syrian opposition. This potentially means money from the Gulf. Secondly, they're gonna want support from Turkey. All eyes are gonna go to Turkey because Turkey has an 800 kilometer border with Syria. There is a formation of a Free Syrian army on Turkish territory and Turkey is helping this Free Syrian army. They haven't armed it yet, but they could, and they're threatening they could do that if things go form bad to worse. So, if there's gonna be a military effort against Syria or some arming and training of the Syrian opposition, this would happen on Turkish soil. There's talk about a no fly zone, so the opposition wants things like this, or they're divided about it now, but they're moving in that direction. Now, for the west the ultimate goal then is the UN Security Council to condemn Syria. That's what happened in Libya and that allowed for NATO and the United States to do this no fly zone and close scare support for the rebels, and bomb everything that Gaddafi owned. And many people in the Syrian opposition are beginning to call for that, and so these things could be down the road.

Werman: Right, so have you heard the Syrian opposition distinctly say we want international military help?

Landis: No, the president, Burhan Ghalioun, has said we do not want that. But there are many people on this national security council that have been calling for it in Washington and other places, and there have been demonstrations in Syria where the opposition people have raised signs saying you know, we want support. Right now they're in an intermediary step in which they're asking for foreign observers to come in and you know, of course, Syria is not gonna let them in, but it's a way of sort of saying we want foreigners here and you know, the Syrian opposition is keen to get pressure put on China and Russia to join the western powers and the national security council to condemn Syria, which would mean being able to put much more blanket economic sanctions and ultimately threaten with military intervention.

Werman: Joshua Landis, I mean you spent a lot of time living in Damascus in Syria, what do you think is the end game here?

Landis: Well, the end game is gonna be a long one and it's gonna be, I see a very dark future for Syria. This regime is not gonna collapse. It's still got the army solidly behind it and many people supporting it. The economy is going down the tubes. Increasingly we're seeing the government unable to pay bills, heating prices are going through the roof, Syrians are going to shiver this winter and eventually they're going to begin to starve. And that's gonna put a lot of pressure on the government. But the army, as long as it stays together is a very powerful instrument. And for the opposition to somehow overthrow it and to subdue this government is going to be a battle.

Werman: Director for the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Joshua Landis. He also blogs at syriacomment.com. Thanks so much, Joshua.

Landis: Always a pleasure.

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