Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War
July 7, 2011: The Syrian government has not been able to suppress the pro-reform protests, which began four months ago. So far, nearly two thousand people have died, over 10,000 injured and nearly as many arrested. About 15,000 have fled to Turkey and Lebanon. As soon as the secret police finish their arrests, beatings and murders in one village or neighborhood, the unrest pops up somewhere else. It is even showing up again after the secret police have already "pacified" a place. Now, Assad family loyalists are openly talking about real elections, to select a more efficient tyrant. Or, maybe, actually establish a democracy. This form of government has not really worked well in Arab states. But it seems to work well in other parts of the world. President Assad has scheduled talks with opposition leaders on the 10th, to discuss all sorts of possibilities.
In the last week, troops have been pulled out of cities, towns and villages that have been tagged as "disloyal." It appears that the secret police and intelligence agencies, which do tend to have a good idea of what the popular attitude is, have concluded that the violent suppression just makes matters worse. There have also been increasing military desertions, and even some secret police officials have admitted to feeling some sympathy for the reformers. These attitudes were apparently reinforced when the troops went into Hama, and found reformers, not religious or political radicals.
Turkey is openly criticizing the harsh treatment inflicted on peaceful protestors. Many diplomats are reporting that the Assads no longer have what it takes to run a proper, and secure, dictatorship. Something must be done. Meanwhile, the Assads are scrambling to placate the reformers while keeping themselves in power. That will not work, but no one has been able to convince the Assads of that. Not yet.
In the city of Hama, the tanks have pulled out, with some of them moving to guard the Baath Party headquarters.
Apparently the Iranian security advisors, and their Hezbollah death squads from Lebanon, are being ignored. The use of foreigners to terrorize and kill Syrians proved very unpopular, and just made the protestors more determined.
July 6, 2011: Troops, accompanied by tanks and other armored vehicles, moved into Hama, where they killed or wounded about a hundred protestors and scattered thousands more.
July 5, 2011: Troops and armored vehicle surrounded Hama, the scene of anti-government protests in the early 1980s, that led to a savage crackdown that left over 5,000 dead in Hama alone. But there is little fear of a repeat. In the early 1980s, the protestors were mostly Islamic radicals, who were not very popular. The Assads, on the other hand, were better regarded back then. Once the Hama resistance was crushed, dissent throughout the country disappeared (or went underground or fled overseas).
July 4, 2011: Tanks and troops withdrew from the Hama suburbs. It's unclear what is going on here.
July 3, 2011: Troops and armored vehicles entered the suburbs of the northern city of Hama, and began arresting suspected dissidents. Gunfire was heard.
In the capital, longtime Assad loyalists, many of them senior officials, urged the government to quickly make substantial reforms. The alternative, while not spelled out, appeared to be the Assad's losing control of the nation they have ruled for over forty years.
July 1, 2011: In Hama, over a 100,000 people attended an anti-government demonstration. The government then fired the local governor for not having prevented this. In the capital, there was a large pro-Assad demonstration. But the capital has enough government employees, and others who have benefitted from being pro-Assad, that organizing this kind of demonstration was not difficult. But there are over half a million people demonstrating all over the country, calling for reform.
June 30, 2011: NATO has officially ruled out any military intervention in Syria. In Libya, it's been pointed out, there was an armed rebellion going on, and the rebels asked for NATO help.