After all hope was lost. After 5 years and little change. After international pressure strengthening the hand of the old guard. Finally, Bashar is to relaunch his reform program.
But there have been false dawns before.
And today is different: with US tanks on the Syrian border, and unprecedented domestic attacks from key Syrians like Riad Seif and Abdul Halim Khaddam calling for Bashar’s overthrow, is anything going to change?
This weekend’s reforms – the first talk of real liberalisation since 2001 (ignoring the party conference) – includes making it easier for other parties to get involved in government, and politicise more Syrians. It’s not clear whether the Muslim Brotherhood would be involved – but Bashar has been making concilliatory sounds to them in recent years.
Astonishingly, human rights group Amnesty International have been allowed back in to Syria for the first time since 1997. One of their conditions of operation is that they can operate freely, so it’ll be interesting to see what they report.
It’s an unusual time to liberalise domestically. The prisoner releases were hailed as a way of getting the government’s opponents to rally round the ‘national cause’ – unity not plurality.
5 years ago Syria thought all its dreams had come true. It came crashing down 18 months later. Is this Bashar’s last chance?