Syria: For the record. President al-Asad announced parliamentary elections will be held on 7 May.
Comment: Despite the violence, Asad is undeterred from following the political reform plan he outlined last year, which will include multi-party elections.
The Syrian Opposition. Former judge, attorney and prominent opposition figure Haithem al-Maleh withdrew from the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) because of the party’s lack of transparency, clarity and organization, al-Maleh said on 13 March. Al-Maleh added that the group has not been successful in arming the rebels.
Comment: al-Maleh is a long time, well-respected critic of the Asad’s and known as a human rights activist and member of Amnesty International. He has served two terms in prison for his political activism, as a prisoner of conscience, most recently between 2009 and 2011. He was released last March under one of President Asad’s amnesty decrees, one for political prisoners over 70 years of age.
Al Maleh once predicted that Asad will face the same fate as Qadhafi, but apparently the Syrian National Council will not be the instrument of his justice.
The details of al-Maleh’s split with the SNC are not readily available, but his statement contains serious charges that imply he found the council acting in some ways like the Syrian government. His comments about a lack of clarity and organization suggest fundamental shortcomings, plus unwillingness to accept counsel from one of the oldest and most respected foes of the Asad family.
This is the first high-level defection from the SNC.
Syria-Russia: Russia has no intention of curtailing military cooperation with Syria. Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Russia will abide by existing contracts to deliver weapons to Syria.
Comment: The Russians continue to back the government in power. They support a peace plan, but it requires the opposition to stop shooting as well as the government.