Syria Regime Rocked by Protests - Farnaz Fassihi and Jay Solomon
Thousands of protesters demanding political liberalization marched in cities across Syria on Friday, an unprecedented display of public dissent that prompted violent clashes with security forces and left dozens dead and injured. Across Syria, security forces battled the crowds with batons and sticks, in some instances firing at the public and arresting dozens of people.
In Damascus, a vast pro-Assad rally took place. Hundreds of cars plastered with pictures of the president descended on the central Umayyad Square. Some U.S., European and Israeli officials saw the potential weakening of Assad's government - a close ally of Iran - as an important opening to significantly undermine Tehran's role in t he region. (Wall Street Journal)
See also U.S. Won't Back New Intervention in Syria - Jay Solomon
U.S. officials are virtually ruling out an international intervention to stop political violence in Syria, despite a widening crackdown against dissidents there. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington still held out hopes that Assad could be peeled away from Iran and pushed toward embracing political and economic change. "Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he's a reformer," Clinton told CBS's "Face the Nation."
Earlier this month, as protests starting gripping Syria, Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has held nearly a half-dozen meetings with Assad in recent years, said he thought Syria's president was an agent f or change. However, the State Department and French government intervened last month to block a scheduled meeting between the two men in Damascus. (Wall Street Journal)