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Terrorism & Security

Syrian ruling party members defect en masse

More than 200 Baath Party members announced their resignation Wednesday in the largest expression of dissent since the party came to power in 1963.

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There were also unconfirmed reports that members of the Syrian Army refused to fire on protesters and clashed with the Fourth Mechanized Division, an elite Army unit led by Maher Al Assad, President Bashar Al Assad's brother, according to the Guardian. A split in the Army "would present an unprecedented challenge to the Assad regime's four-decade rule and cast serious doubt on its ability to survive," The Christian Science Monitor reported on Monday, after similar clashes in Deraa.

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But while dissent appears to be crystallizing in Syria, the international community has made little progress on collective action against the Assad regime, which has steadily refused to cease using violence against protesters.

Efforts to pass a United Nations Security Council statement condemning the violence remains stalled by the refusal of several members, including Russia, to support it. Russia has veto power on the council and blocked the statement Wednesday.

According to Al Jazeera, Russia insisted that the violence in Syria did not meet certain criteria that justify international action against the Syrian government – namely that it was not a threat to international peace and security – and that foreign intervention would pose a threat to regional security.

Alexander Pankin, the Russian deputy UN ambassador, said that foreign intervention leads to "a never ending circle of violence" and could set off civil war. Russia has been a vocal critic of the foreign intervention in Libya.

Meanwhile, some European countries are continuing their efforts against the Assad regime independent of the UN. The governments of France, Britain, Germany, Italy, and Spain collectively told the Syrian ambassadors in their countries that they condemned the crackdown and insisted that Assad "change his ways," according to Al Jazeera.

The European Union will meet on Friday to discuss the possibility of sanctions against Syria. The US is also pursuing sanctions against Syria, but EU sanctions would carry much more weight. According to the Wall Street Journal, the EU is Syria's main trade partner and trade between the two countries totaled $7.9 billion in 2009 – 23 percent of Syria's trade.

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