The Syrian Army sweeps on

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

THE SYRIAN army is continuing its sweep against the Nato-backed rebels throughout the country. The countryside around the capital, Damascus, has now been cleared of terrorists and that most of Aleppo is now safe. But the rebels are responding with more car bombs in Damascus and other urban areas.

Two senior opposition leaders have disappeared after landing at Damascus International Airport, along with another who came to meet them. They were coming to attend a keynote opposition conference in Damascus and the organisers believe they are being held by Syrian intelligence. The government say the three were kidnapped by terrorist groups.

And United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has told the UN Security Council that the situation is "extremely bad and getting worse" while the feudal Arab Emir of Qatar, who holds his own people in bondage with imperialist support, is calling for an “Arab intervention force” to enter Syria and halt the conflict.

Lakhdar Brahimi told the UN: "There is no disagreement anywhere that the situation in Syria is extremely bad and getting worse, that it is a threat to the region and a threat to peace and security in the world."

He admitted that he did not have a full plan to end the fighting and said there was "no prospect for today or tomorrow to move forward". But he added: "I think that we will find an opening in the not too distant future." And said he believed "reasonable people" would know that they cannot go backwards.

Meanwhile the Arab Socialist Renaissance Party (Baath), which has dominated Syrian politics since 1963, has said that the Syrian army is making significant achievements and progress on the path of restoring security and stability.

"This is going on at the time when a dynamic activity is witnessed in the Syrian arena in the course of remarkable political changes towards implementing the reform programme steps, aimed at reaching pluralistic and participatory democracy," the Baath said in a statement on Tuesday.

It said the emergence of a large number of parties, trends and forces in an atmosphere of freedom of expression and assembly, despite the special security circumstances, proved “once again the accustomed political vitality of the Syrian people".

This was concretely demonstrated by the goahead for a one-day conference in Damascus last Sunday of opposition forces that called for an immediate ceasefire as well as the end of the Assad government. Diplomats from Iran, Russia and China attended the meeting and the Russian ambassador, Azmat Allah Kolmahmedov, praised the conference, organised by National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB), calling it a "direct implementation of the process of reforms launched by the Syrian government, including the freedom of expression”.

The conference’s conclusions were similar to those in the UN’s “Annan Plan”. It called for an immediate ceasefire accompanied by the full withdrawal of the Syrian army from towns and cities and the release of all political detainees and kidnapped people. This would be followed by the start of negotiations between the opposition and representatives of the Syrian government on a peaceful transition of power.

The NCB is dismissed by the “Free Syrian Army”, and the other rebel groups funded by the Arab oil princes and armed by Nato, as a some sort of front for the Assad government because the NCB is opposed to the violence and imperialist intervention.

But it is led by some long-standing opponents of Syria’s ruling party and the Baath was not happy at some of the conference’s conclusions.

The Baath attacked the promotion of “despotic and non-patriotic thinking” by some of the participants at the conference and it stressed that the way forward must be based on unconditional dialogue and commitment to plural democracy. Attempts by some opposition parties to link the political solution to the crisis with the armed terrorist dimension affirmed the unity between these parties' stance and that of the external sides, which are supporting terrorism and sending mercenaries, funds and weapons to the armed groups.