Syria is moving into the ultimate showdown over the fate of the Assad dynasty. President Assad ordered his troops to open fire after today's prayers and they killed another 75 Syrians seeking reform.

The Scottish organisers of an international cultural festival have been forced to abandon plans to stage events in Syria next month. Reel Festivals 2011 had planned part of its programme in Damascus as part of a trilateral cultural exchange between Scotland, Lebanon and Syria.

The State Department has secretly financed Syrian political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country, according to previously undisclosed diplomatic cables.

While protests in Syria are increasing in size and scope, the Syrian regime does not appear to be taking chances by parsing out political reforms that could further embolden the opposition. Instead, the Syrian regime is more likely to resort to more forceful crackdowns, which is likely to highlight the growing contradictions in U.S. public diplomacy in the region.

February 9, 2011

With Egypt in the midst of a revolution and Tunisia coming to terms with life after dictatorship, Syria’s government has surprised the region by taking a potentially significant step to soften its grip on power: it has removed many of its internet restrictions.

Egypt's revolution has been reverberating throughout the Middle East and North Africa, terrifying every dictator and authoritarian ruler, from those of Jordan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia to Algeria and beyond.

Those who said that 'winds of change' were blowing through the Middle East were right. The past few weeks have seen a stunning series of political shifts in response to widespread discontent and popular opposition that once went unacknowledged.

Inspired by the recent upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt, a group of online activists in Syria has started a Facebook group that's calling for a peaceful "2011 Syrian Revolution."