Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War
April 21, 2011: Bashir Assad clings to power by manipulating the fear within the many factions supporting him that they would have to flee the country, to avoid death or prison, if the current government fell. Then there is the threat that the security forces would use extreme violence to suppress the demonstrations. This, however, could enrage the general population and trigger a bloody civil war. The only thing everyone can agree on is a desire for peaceful resolution of the crises. But Assad and his cronies don't want to give up power, and they may have to risk everything to find out how far most Syrians are willing to go to force big changes.
Five weeks of escalating violence have left over 200 dead, and over a thousand arrested (and hundreds later released). While nearly all the dead are protestors, more security forces personnel are getting killed. The government is using armed militias (from the groups that have always supported the Assad dictatorship) as well as the police and "special" (secret) police to try and control or terrorize the growing number of demonstrators. There are also said to be small numbers (hundreds) of "security specialists" from Iran. Some Hezbollah gunmen are believed involved as well, and Syrians are accusing these "foreigners" for many of the killings. While most of the leadership posts in the police and army are held by minorities (like the Alawite sect the Assads belong to), most of the troops are majority Sunni Arab. Thus Assad controls management, but has to be careful with the rank and file.
If enough civilians hit the streets, there won't be enough security forces to confront them, and the entire structure of the Assad police state will start coming apart. Iran might try to stop it, with a massive transfer (by air) of security personnel, and many more from Hezbollah entering by land. Hezbollah loses a lot if it no longer has those land supply routes from Syria. Meanwhile, each Friday (the Moslem Sunday), the demonstrations get larger. The way things have been going, it won't be many more Fridays before Assad and his crew are gone, or the country is getting blown apart by civil war. It's unclear if democracy or a new dictatorship will replace the old government. There are many tribes and factions in Syria, and predicting how they will all shake out is not possible.
April 19, 2011: The government votes to end the Emergency Law, which, since the 1960s, has made it legal for the government to do whatever it wanted to suppress opposition. The government plans to introduce the kinds of rights that democracies take for granted, and Syrians have been demonstrating for, with increasing numbers, over the last month. The government did not give a precise date for all these reforms to happen, as president Assad has to sign the new decree to make the hated Emergency Laws go away.
April 17, 2011: Police open fire on funeral of reform activists killed the day before. Internet and mobile phone service was shut down in the capital. These two forms of communication have helped keep the demonstrations going, but are also used by the government. However, when the situation appears desperate, the government shut down Internet and cell phone service in area, to give the security services (who are equipped with police and military radios) an edge.
April 16, 2011: Assad says Emergency Laws will be eliminated sometime next week. But now demonstrators are calling for the disbanding of the secret police and other organizations used to sustain the police state. Demonstrations appear in the capital (Damascus) for the first time.
April 15, 2011: Large demonstration in the capital are thwarted as a huge force of police block thousands of people from marching to the main square, near government buildings.
April 14, 2011: President Assad introduces a new cabinet and releases more people arrested for organizing demonstrations. EU (European Union) tells Assad that he will have to reduce the violence of this forces if he wants to get any support from Europe.
April 11, 2011: Troops and police seal off town of Banias, and plan to arrest or kill all reform leaders. This tactic does not work, and fails when applied to other towns.
April 8, 2011: More protests than usual (as is common for Fridays), and troops in Deraa fire on crowds, killing at least 22 people there, and fifteen in other cities. This enrages Syrians throughout the country.
April 7, 2011: The government granted citizenship to 250,000 Kurds in the northeast. Kurds are the largest minority (15 percent of 23 million Syrians) and have long been denied citizenship because many Kurds would prefer a Kurdish state (uniting with Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and Iran.)
April 3, 2011: Assad names former Minister of Agriculture to be new prime minister. More demonstrators hit the streets in protest.
April 2, 2011: Every day, there are pro-reform demonstrations in some cities. Police try to arrest of dozens of reform leaders.
April 1, 2011: Demonstrators appear in several cities, demanding democracy, not gradual reforms to the current police state.
March 31, 2011: Assad says he is looking into eliminating the hated Emergency Laws. The U.S. government warned Americans to stay out of Syria unless it was very important business.
March 30, 2011: Security forces ordered not to hurt people while dealing with demonstrations.
March 29, 2011: The government (the prime minister and other ministers) resigned and president (dictator-for-life) Assad has to come up with more acceptable replacements.
March 28, 2011: In the town of Deraa, troops fire into the air to dispense pro-reform protestors.