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Syrian Spring, Arab Spring

We peer into the uprising and brutal crackdown in Syria. Will the “Arab Spring” come to a grinding halt at Syria’s doorstep, or will it sweep away the Assad regime along with the others?

In this citizen journalism image made on a mobile phone, Syrian anti-government protesters carry the coffin of an activist who was killed in Quaboun near Damascus, Syria, April 23.

In this citizen journalism image made on a mobile phone, Syrian anti-government protesters carry the coffin of an activist who was killed in Quaboun near Damascus, Syria, April 23. (AP)

The jumpy, helter-skelter cell phone videos coming out of Syria are terrifying.

Tanks and heavy machine gun fire tearing up streets full of screaming, running protestors. Defiance. Blood. Funerals. Despair.

Syria is not Egypt. Not Tunisia. Not even Libya. There is no NATO intervention here, just a hot wing of the Arab Spring grinding up against a determined dictator whose army is fully ready to shoot and kill.

And yet, Syria is in the heart of the Arab world. If the power falls here, all bets are off. For Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran.

This hour On Point: Uprising and crackdown in Syria.

- Tom Ashbrook


Anthony Shadid joins us from Beirut, Lebanon. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for the New York Times.

Rami Khouri also joins us from Beirut. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist and editor-at-large for Lebanon’s Daily Star Newspaper and Director of the Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University in Beirut.

Joshua Landis, joins us from Norman, Oklahoma. He is Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He runs a blog called “SyriaComment.com.”


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  • Michael

    It’s very sad what’s happening there, but i hope onpoint wouldn’t forget similar actions were/are occurring in Bahrain/Saudi A/Yemen/UAE and Qatar doesn’t even allow protest or the same actions would occur as well as the Palestinians face brutal oppression on a daily basis both in gaza and the west bank.

    Also to note the concern UK calling for sanctions on syria has invited the prince of Bahrain to the royal wedding. I guess shotgunning civilians is a human rights abuse base on were the civilians are located or of course if there a U.S. U.K. ally or not.

  • Michael

    Maybe your guests can discuss the U.S. hypocrisy in regards to

    -Use of tanks, snipers, attacking civilians, killing civilians for freedom of speech, holding prisioners without charges

    Than explain why the U.S. still has the moral high ground or why it more than happy to look the other way when our allies do the above.

  • Michael

    Remember this when you hear Clinton or Obama talking about freedom of speech and human rights.



    “Human rights issues have not historically been the subject of public discourse but have become increasingly prominent during the year. The government’s human rights record remained poor overall with continuing serious problems, despite some progress. The following human rights problems were reported:

    • no right to change the government
    • infliction of severe pain by judicially sanctioned corporal punishments
    • beatings and other abuses
    • arbitrary arrest
    • incommunicado detention
    • denial of fair public trials
    • exemption from the rule of law for some individuals and lack of judicial independence
    • political prisoners
    • infringement of privacy rights
    • significant restriction of civil liberties–freedoms of speech and press, assembly, association, and movement
    • no religious freedom
    • widespread perception of corruption
    • lack of government transparency
    • legal and societal discrimination against women, religious and other minorities
    • strict limitations on worker rights. ”

    Anyone hear Gates,Obama,Gram,Lieberman,Clinton call for sanctions on Saudi Arabia?

    Here’s what the Saudi’s had to say before Gates came

    Saudi Arabia imposes ban on all protests

    “Its statement said security forces would use all measures to prevent any attempt to disrupt public order.”


    A challenge to a Sunni monarch, even next door, was too much of a risk, he says.

    “For the Saudis, the monarchy is serious about remaining a monarch and not compromising. The Saudis saw an existential threat from the spread of democracy in Bahrain.”

    At the same time, the Saudis are deeply worried about an American administration that has sided with pro-democracy demonstrators against longtime friends. This has deeply strained a historic security arrangement, says Alterman.

    “It’s a Saudi Arabia that increasingly feels that the United States isn’t going to provide the security umbrella that they’ve counted on the United States to do,” he says. “I don’t think the Saudi attitude has changed; I don’t think the Saudi analysis has changed. In the Saudi view, what’s changed is the environment, and it will act in its interest.”

    Gates flew to the kingdom Wednesday to reassure the Saudis that the security umbrella is still in place, even if Washington and Riyadh disagree on how to respond to Middle East uprisings.


  • Cory

    I’m not ready to call this an “Arab Spring”. Too early to know what it is or who exactly is behind it or who will come out on top.

  • Paul C

    Tom asks on air ” what do you see going on?”

    I see the USA via the CIA destabilizing one more of Israel’s foes – pitting sect, religion and tribes against each other and eventually leaving misery and chaos (ala Iraq).

    I see the blatant hypocrisy US media hammering away all day long on Syria, while ignoring Yemen and Bahrain – total dictators where many people close to poverty.

    Syria is a modern country where the people have substantial freedoms and standard of living, compared to the close allies of the USA.

    • Anonymous

      I was waiting for this, it did not take long for the “blame everything on Israel crowd” to chime in. Here’s a little thought for you pal.
      Why would Israel want a destabilized Syria or Egypt as their neighbors? What is the advantage of this? Chaos is destabilizing for everyone’s economies which does not make any sense at all.
      This has nothing to do with Israel. I know you folks want to blame everything including the spoiled milk in your frig on Israel but, this is an internal Arab issue.

      • Paul C

        I could not disagree with you more.

        Israel is subsidized and supported fully by the USA therefore Israel could care less if the countries surrounding it fell into abject poverty. In fact, Israel would benefit. Look at Palestine !!

        And if you haven’t noticed, the Modus Operandi of the US/Israel is to destabilize every country in the region that is not an allied dictator. The LAST thing Israel wants to see is reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, Sunnis and Shiites, and Christians and Muslims.

        Yes, indeed, you can label me on this one, Pal.
        Most of the turmoil in the middle east can be blamed on Israel and US foreign policy, and the incessant meddling by the same.

        • Anonymous

          Oh please, you can’t blame every problem in the entire Middle East on Israel even though it’s convenient to have these bogeymen.
          There are things that Israel needs realize and one is a Palestinian state. However to say what your are saying is nothing short of nonsense based on your own anti-Israel agenda. Israel is better off with good productive neighbors that have thriving economies.
          If you think they don’t care about that then you are very much mistaken. Your comments are more about your own personal agendas and political dogma than anything else. The simplistic tone alone shows me that. The Middle East is a lot more complex than your simple ideologically driven dogma.

          • Paul C

            It is you geffe that has the simplistic and erroneous dogma. Your presumption to my agenda underlies your lack of credibility.

            “By way of deception we shall wage war” is the Mossad’s motto. this by no means is a simplistic and sincere approach to living amongst one’s neighbors and even dealing with one’s “allies”. People of integrity do not sneak, lie and deceive, no less kill and assassinate at will.

            The attacks upon civilians in Gaza and its years of incarceration by Israel offers a clear indication of how much Israel cares for its neighbors.

          • Anonymous

            the show is not about Gaza. It’s about Syria and the protests against the government by it’s own people. I never said anything about Gaza or nor did I ever make any comments in support of Israel’s action in that area. You see you just proved my point about your simplistic dogma by making all these assumptions about my comments as being pro Israel. On the contrary I do not support their Right wing government. I do however see this on every shwo On Point does on the Middle East. You folks come out in force and the BUR producers do nothing. This show is not about Israel and try as hard as you can you can’t make it so. Will Israel be there in 50 years from now? I doubt it. But that’s another show.

      • Ellen Dibble

        Geffe, I missed the start of this show and want to listen later, but I posted on the Bernanke hour as follows, and you might want to visit the site and see (it’s a new take on an old dilemma):
        On Democracy Now! this morning, I heard Saree Makdisi, professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA and the author of several books, including Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, talking about why Palestine can achieve what Egypt and Tunisia achieved, and the people can function without the drag of Fatah and Hamas. He seemed to me to be referring to the Tea Party and certain party players in the USA when he said that people who are NOT organized and NOT hierarchical, and therefore cannot be bribed or seduced — you can go and see the transcript. I knew exactly what he was talking about. And it is interesting to me after being told by a few more-or-less local politicians that in order to be heard I have to have a “movement,” so why don’t I start one. And I’m thinking, a movement the better to be hijacked by moneyed interests, or religious interests, and why can’t we be truly disorganized like, um, the people in the Arab spring. (Then I went to an economic application of the disorganization principle.)

        • Michael

          Side note,

          curious why you changed your avatar to Rand? the previous picture looked much pretty in my view or course others may disagree.

          • Ellen Dibble

            Oh, you recognize Rand? Someone said she looked like a witch, and I thought she looked like me, and I was thinking how people like me attack her work, especially as used by Paul Ryan, but also she was an individual. I can step into her shoes as an individual in plenty of ways, as a risk-taker, that sort of thing. And I was also thinking I really did like my former avatar, but the old avatar showed actual relations of mine, and I’m trying to think how to explain to them just how far that image may have gone, and ask… You see? If I did have a photo of me, I wouldn’t use it. Next I’d be putting up my fingerprints. Anyway, the shift in avatar affected ALL my previous posts, and maybe I should switch to a distinctive smiley face. Or I guess I’d better try to reach my niece.

          • Ellen Dibble

            Oh, you recognize Rand? Someone said she looked like a witch, and I thought she looked like me, and I was thinking how people like me attack her work, especially as used by Paul Ryan, but also she was an individual. I can step into her shoes as an individual in plenty of ways, as a risk-taker, that sort of thing. And I was also thinking I really did like my former avatar, but the old avatar showed actual relations of mine, and I’m trying to think how to explain to them just how far that image may have gone, and ask… You see? If I did have a photo of me, I wouldn’t use it. Next I’d be putting up my fingerprints. Anyway, the shift in avatar affected ALL my previous posts, and maybe I should switch to a distinctive smiley face. Or I guess I’d better try to reach my niece.

        • Michael


          It might interest you that Palestinian unity government is on the way, before the Sept vote for statehood. This is interesting cause many stated the Palestinians could not have the right to exist if both governments did not find common ground and unite for the good of all palestinians. What to guess whoses against the untity government?

          “The Fatah party of the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – which runs parts of the West Bank – and Hamas, which governs Gaza, have been divided for more than four years.

          Their surprise deal, announced and brokered in Cairo, came after months of failed rounds of talks.”

          Look for in the next few weeks esalations in tension between Israel and Hamas.

          “He threatened measures to restrict the freedom of movement of Mr Abbas and the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and freeze the transfer of taxes collected by Israel for the PA. ”


          The BBC’s Jonathan Head in Cairo says that if the deal goes ahead, it will end the bitter hostility between the two sides and remove a significant barrier to the Palestinian campaign for statehood.

          Than a bunch of hyperbole language .Worth noting that not only did the UK invite the prince of Bahrain to the wedding but Syria’s ambassador’s as well

          bbc. co. uk/news/world-middle-east-13221843

          and still protesters being shot dead in Yeman
          Yemeni security forces have opened fire on protesters in the capital, Sanaa, killing at least nine people, witnesses and doctors say.

          bbc. co. uk/news/world-middle-east-13214470

    • Michael

      Israel is actually in support of keeping the status que for syria and supported Murburk over the pro-democracy protesters, also supports. Even knwo the rheotic is harsh Israel has a favorable relationships with these despots. If one were to read israeli news there against the arab spring and in favor of keeping despots.

      But I agree with the blatant hypocrisy of the U.S. media, it’s reporting on Yeman is nearly pure spin and properganda.

      • Michael

        should include Libya as well, which the coverage has ommitted rebels rapes,killings and murders of african migrants and libyans of african origin were attacking the AU for calling for a cease fire.

        • Michael

          “should include Libya as well, which the coverage has ommitted rebels rapes,killings and murders of african migrants and libyans of african origin. While at the same time the Western media were attacking the AU for calling for a cease fire while admitting reasons for such.”

          Also ommitting that a cease fire could occur but the U.S. backed and funded rebels(civilians when killed) who somehow never killed a civilian if one were to read the western newspaper are pushed not to which results in even more suffering and civilians deaths. Not to mention Nato has attacked civilians targets (Library) (pubilc office buildings)

    • George

      It’s hard to believe that your last statement was about Syria, could you please explain to me, a Syrian, how did you find Syria as a “modern country”?

      • Guest

        Your question suggests that you really no nothing about Syria. Invest some minutes in your day and google Syria and you will see that Syria IS a modern country. It doesn’t look like in the movies where they show it as deserts and tenets and camels…
        Open your eyes people and come out of your bubbles, then state your opinions.

  • Michael

    The current guest just stated some of the protestors are refusing to respond with violences but just the prior day on the bbc an spokeperson for the protestors said that if assad did not step down violences and conflict would occur from such protestors.

  • Potter

    This was an excellent program– all three guests top notch. Thank you!

  • Potter

    This was an excellent program– all three guests top notch. Thank you!

  • http://open.salon.com/content.php?cid=1185465&is_preview=1 Marygrav

    The U.S. latest drumbeat to war reminds me of heady days before Iraq. Why can Isreal be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood, while the Syrians are expected not to be.

  • Tarzan

    Just like any other NPR Program, Diane Rehm show will not give voice to the people who do not get media coverage and cannot get a minute on the mike. We will talk about the Bernanke’s Fed, Birth Certificate, Birds and the Bees, but not about what really happened on 9/11.

    And Diane will not have enough courage to bring Architect Richard Gage as a guest.

    ++++here is some thing that we sent to Chris Matthew++++++++
    Dear Chris Matthews

    We respect you, you are a good journalist.
    You are the only and lonely voice out there who questioned “The real reason/motive why we invaded Iraq”.

    However, Shame On You!!!
    You left journalism at home …. On the 10:31′th Min:Sec of your show ….you said
    “9/11 Truth Movement claims that Bush brought WTC #7 HIMSELF”. And you repeated this a few times.


    You cannot see or find a Single Reference anywhere that anybody has made such a claim.

    You also claimed that there is a similarity between the Obama Birthers and 9/11 Truth Movement. This is just NOT TRUE. 9/11 Truth People and Birthers are total opposite of each other.

    Almost all of the 9/11 Truth Movement People are extremely informed, mostly lefty/progressive Democrats and did not give a diddly about where Obama was born.

    Birthers on the other hand the most ignorant, nationalistic and mostly “racicst” (with a capital R) people.

    All of your 9/11 Truth Movement comments are biased and you have never ever looked at the facts or evidence of the Sudden collapse of WTC #7.

    Geraldo Rivera was much worse than you were ….

    But since November 14, 2010 he is enlightened about WTC #7. Now he thinks the Collapse needs to be investigated.


  • Tarzan

    geffe = Evil Israel’s Corrupt Attorney

    • Anonymous

      That’s not called for. I could stoop to some name calling here but I think it is better to call your comment crap.

  • Tarzan and Jane

    Can somebody within OnPoint staff research and find out what Former Italian President Francesco Cossiga has said one year before he died about the events of 9/11?

    Enter: Francesco Cossiga 9/11

    Why in the world, this show OnPoint is so afraid of inviting Architect Richard Gage about the Collapse of WTC #7.

    Geffe and the other guy who always protect Israel:
    Please do not respond if you and Israel does not have anything to hide.
    Show some decency, OK.

  • Lilya @ Boston Book Fair

    Wow, a topic about the Middle East and none of the Guests are from AEI, AIPAC, J-Street or Likud.

    Good Job, Tom …. good job

  • Vernon Broyles

    Thank you for the guests on the show today about Syria, etc.. It is refreshing to hear people who are invested, who know the history, ethnic/tribal realities, the current situation, and do not simply offer the typical, tired analysis and geopolitical strategies that have contributed to the mess the US and European powers have made with their interventions. Tom Ashbrook gets A-Plus for his regular excellence in his role as moderator of the On Point programs.

  • Pingback: Syria Comment » Archives » NPR Show with Anthony Shadid, Rami Khouri, and Joshua Landis

  • http://profiles.google.com/markjlvanderwater Mark VanDerwater

    I love this show – great guests! But, if I may, Tom, suggest that you restrain your tendencies to restate callers questions – with your own additions. One caller threw out a concise, focused, powerful question about ethnic cleansing and you unnecessarily stepped between him and your guests, blurring and and diffusing a crystal clear line of thought. I would have loved to hear the Khouri and Landis respond directly. Pardon my bluntness, but I wouldn’t bother if I didn’t like the show an awful lot.

  • Brett

    If this is an “Arab Spring,” then what is in bloom? What is growing? What will bloom later in the season? What has been stunted due to blight, a hard winter, or nature’s attempt to balance itself? With any spring, there follows a summer, fall and winter.

    (I don’t know, have I covered the bases, mixed metaphorically speaking?)

  • Pingback: Uprising Fish Wrap | Syria

  • Campcarruthers

    Did the host seriously refer to Iran as Syria’s “only Arab ally”?

  • Flamencotunes

    What did “NATO” make except great terror, tears & wounds to many Arab & middle-eastern countries?..we saw their “democracy” in Iraq & Afghanistan, nowadays in Libya..why “NATO” is silent in Yemen, Bahrain & Jordan?…why the conscience of NATO was – and still – absent in case of non-countable Israel’s massacres & crimes?.. is “NATO” a human organization?..I think that the world memory is in holiday…!!

  • Slipstream

    One of the things that jumped out at me on this show was the statement by one of the guests that a big cause for the unrest in Syria and elsewhere was the big jumps in food prices that they have been experiencing. I have seen very little about this in the American media. Maybe if these countries made some effort to engage in sustainable population growth and economic growth, they would be in better shape today. Is anybody trying to do that in the Arab world?

Apr 17, 2014
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Apr 17, 2014
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men burn leavened items in final preparation for the Passover holiday in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish town of Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, April 14, 2014. Jews are forbidden to eat leavened foodstuffs during the Passover holiday that celebrates the biblical story of the Israelites' escape from slavery and exodus from Egypt. (AP)

In the week of Passover and anti-Semitic gunfire, we look at the history of the Jews with acclaimed historian Simon Schama. Plus, Pope Francis and the Catholic Church today.

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Harvard Business School is one of the top-ranked MBA programs in the country. Our guest today suggests those kinds of degrees aren't necessary for business success. (HBS / Facebook)

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