Since anti-government protests broke out in Syria four months ago, the Syrian regime's strongest supporter and ally, Iran, has been providing Damascus with training and equipment to repress peaceful demonstrators. The Iranian government's harsh and pervasive techniques to crush dissent were well honed during the massive Iranian protests that followed the disputed presidential election of 2009.
The Syrian government has followed suit. Its crackdown on peaceful demonstrators has been ferocious; but, like the Iranian government, it has failed to obliterate the democratic aspirations of its people.
In testimony before congress, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner said that "President [Bashar al-] Assad and his regime have responded to peaceful protests with gunfire, mass arrests, torture and abuse. Human rights organizations report that over 1,300, perhaps as many as 1,600 Syrians have been killed. Thousands more have been jailed. And the Syrian people are being held hostage to a widening crackdown by security forces."
But, Mr. Posner said, "The Syrian people remarkably have lost their fear. They're not backing down in the face of this brutality. They're continuing to take to the streets to demand freedom, respect for their basic rights, transition to democracy, and for dignity."
The unceasing demands of the Syrian people are fueled by their desire to forge a new destiny, said Assistant Secretary Posner, and the goal of the United States is to see that the will of the Syrian people for a democratic transformation occurs.
It is tragic that the Iranian regime is tutoring Damascus in repression; but the Iranian people, who still defy and suffer at the hands of their government, are teachers too. As President Barack Obama has said, "Let's remember that the first peaceful protests in the region were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail. We still hear the chants echo from rooftops of Tehran. . ."
Mr. Obama predicts that across the Middle East, where people are trying to loosen the grip of dictators' iron fists, "repression will fail, and tyrants will fall." The U.S., he says, stands "squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights, knowing their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable, and more just."