Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War
October 24, 2011: Nearly 20,000 soldiers have deserted in the last seven months, most of them in the last month. The number of deserters grows daily. The recent death of Libyan dictator Kaddafi did not help morale for the government, or its troops. The government is working its small force of loyal troops hard, and that raises growing concerns about the continued loyalty of the army.
With at least half the Syrian 400,000 security forces (police and army) of uncertain reliability, the government is using the 100,000 or so reliable killers (mainly Republican Guard and secret police, plus Hezbollah gunmen from Lebanon and terror groups living in Syria) to terrorize (and, increasingly, slaughter) those civilians who continue to oppose the government. This is a risky strategy, because as more of the less reliable troops and police shoot back, it's a sign that the end of the dictatorship is looming. But the government hard-liners, led by the president's brother (Maher Assad), have won the argument over how to handle the unrest. There's no going back from this, even though Iran is no longer backing the hardline approach. The Assad clan apparently is ready for a fight to the death, but so are the Syrian people. The Assads know they can rely on the army officers and most of the intelligence agencies and secret police. These men are tainted by their association with the government, and are usually non-Sunni. So if the reformers win, and the Assads fall, all these guys are out of a job, or worse. The Assads are taking good care of these men, and assuring them that the government has the resources, and determination, to see this crisis through to a successful conclusion. But so are the reformers, who vastly outnumber the better armed minority supporting the Assads.
The death toll is over 3,000 and rising fast. There are over a hundred deaths a week, and sometimes several dozen in one day. Despite the growing use of violence by government forces, popular opposition continues. Often, in the face of trigger-happy troops, the population will use passive protests. That is, everyone will just stay home. Shops will close and the security forces will have the empty streets all to themselves, until, increasingly, army and police deserters open fire.
The government has apparently been making greater use of Palestinian terror groups, to kidnap and, well, terrorize, government opponents. The Palestinian terrorists have had sanctuary in Syria for decades. If the Assad dictatorship is overthrown, the Palestinians would have to find a new home. That has become more difficult for terrorists, so the Palestinians kill for the cause.
October 23, 2011: The governors of two provinces (Idlib, on the Turkish border, and the area around the Damascus, the capital) were replaced. More and more provincial officials are being replaced, either because they appear unable to handle the unrest or because their loyalty has come under question.
October 20, 2011: News of the death of Libyan dictator Moamar Kaddafi earlier in the day electrified Syrians, causing many spontaneous demonstrations.
October 19, 2011: The government organized a large pro-government demonstration in Aleppo. This city, and Damascus, are the two wealthiest in the country, and contain most government supporters.
On the Lebanese border, civilians witnessed eight Syrian Army deserters being killed by pro-government troops. The deserters were apparently trying to get across the border.
October 15, 2011: The government says it will create a new constitution within four months. This is seen as too little, too late, by most Syrians. Iran, Russia and Turkey are all pressuring the Assad family to make some dramatic reforms, and do it fast otherwise the revolution will be past the point of no return. Many believe that this has already happened.
October 14, 2011: The Canadian government has advised any of its citizens in Syria, to get out as soon as possible. This kind of warning is increasingly common for Westerners in Syria.
October 13, 2011: Britain has threatened to expel Syrian diplomats if harassment does not stop against Syrian exiles in Britain. Police have traced some of the threats back to Syrian embassy personnel.
The EU (European Union) has imposed more sanctions on Syria, making it more difficult for government controlled firms to do business.