JTW Comment - Turkish-US Relations will be Determined by Syria:
"At the same time in Damascus the Baath Party was making decisions on easing its grip on the government, ordering a review of electoral law, allowing more political parties, and reorganizing the media. Syrian rights activists, who are pleased about these changes, said in a press release that real change will come about through full democracy and an immediate end to the emergency law that allows arbitrary arrests and trials at state security courtd. Erdogan was a little bit more hopeful, saying that Syria is capable of implementing reforms. He defended Syria, saying, “Both myself and our President Sezer did our best to convince Syria to withdraw from Lebanon. We give them messages for democratization and they listen to us.”
Yes this year Syria was forced to bow to a United Nations demand and withdraw its troops from Lebanon, and has been under pressure from the U.S. and Europe to introduce economic and political reform. After the withdrawal, al-Assad promised reform but Western observers are saying that the reform efforts from the congress aren't good enough to lead a great leap forward.
Baathists say it's unrealistic to expect change overnight, and AlJazeera.Net quoted a Baathist, Haj Ali, as saying, 'Decisions made by the congress are binding and will be discussed in Parliament. But it will take time for people to get used to the idea that you no longer join the Baath Party because you want a job. This is a problem when there's a link between a party and power. The birth of new parties takes time.'"
Assad of Syria called his Baath party together for a rare conference on becoming more democratic. Is it due to Turkey's "soft power", or is it because 130,000 heavily armed and battle hardened American soldiers sit on Syria's border? Hmmm...