Counterpunch Weekend Edition August 17-19, 2012
Regime Change is About Establishing Sunni Dominance Not Democratic Freedoms
Syrian Australians Demand an End to Foreign Intervention
by CHRIS RAY
Around 1500 people, mostly Australians of Syrian descent marched in Sydney on August 5, calling for an end to foreign intervention aimed at destroying the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The Australian media gave the march almost no coverage, unlike well-publicised though much smaller protests against the Syrian government.
It should surprise no one that large numbers of Syrians support the al-Assad government, with its promise of peaceful reform in a direction indicated by the May 2012 parliamentary elections (when, incidentally, the communists won additional seats), rather than the civil war on religious lines now in progress. One does not have to be an al-Assad supporter to suspect that his government’s immediate departure, as demanded by the rebels and their foreign backers, would create a power vacuum, fragment the country and result in far greater bloodshed.
Chris Ray is a Sydney-based Asia business analyst and journalist.
US State Department human rights reports
Gulf allies: A record of repression and torture
Part 5: Oman
By Kate Randall
29 April 2011
The Sultanate of Oman is an absolute, hereditary monarchy, ruled for the past 41 years by Sultan Qaboos al-Said. Political parties are banned and the sultan has sole authority to amend the country’s laws through royal decree. An elected Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Council) serves as an advisory body only and has no legislative powers.
Oman has a population of about 3.3 million, of whom about 1 million are non-nationals. It is strategically located across the Arabian Sea from Iran and astride the Strait of Hormuz, through which Persian Gulf exports must travel. Oman’s proved reserves of petroleum total about 5.5 billion barrels, the 24th largest in the world.
The US has backed the authoritarian Qaboos regime and has remained silent in recent months as the sultan’s security forces have fired on protesters. In one instance on February 27, police opened fire on a demonstration in the sheikdom’s largest industrial city, Sohar, killing at least six protesters who were demanding democratic rights, a representative legislature and jobs.
The Southeast Asian Times
by Chris Ray, 13.8.2006
The Sultan opens his kingdom
A haunting call to prayer floats from a minaret as the sun begins its ascent over the Arabian Sea. On the waterfront the only movement is the gentle rocking of a dhow at anchor.
Gradually, men dressed in the dishdasha, the loose floor-length tunic typical of the Gulf, gather to exercise along the crescent-shaped corniche. Sharing the communion of early-morning walkers everywhere, they acknowledge you – an obvious foreigner – with a nod or a smile.
Oman’s ancient port of Muttrah, on the eastern fringe of Arabia, looks its best in the dawn light. Beneath the turquoise dome of a mosque, graceful pastel-shaded houses with latticed balconies and carved wooden doors line the corniche. A mud-brown fort and circular watchtowers overlook the bay from the ridges of dramatic saw-tooth mountains.
Despite its location in the troubled Middle East, Oman is building a reputation as a safe and appealing destination and is an easy side trip from Dubai, itself an increasingly popular stopover on the long haul between Australia and Europe…
Oman seems set to receive increasing numbers of tourists if the policies of Qaboos are maintained. The sultan is 64 and childless – an unenviable condition for a hereditary monarch. He has refused to name a crown prince but is rumoured to have deposited the name of his preferred successor at secret locations around the country.