Potential Hot Spots: Syrian Government Is Losing, But Has Not Yet Lost.

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April 29, 2011: Six weeks of growing violence has begun to shake apart the Bashir Assad government and weaken the Baath party's control of the country. Over 500 people have died so far, thousands have been wounded, and nearly 2,000 have been arrested. About a fifth of this carnage has taken place in Daraa, which has become the center of the rebellion. Over 200 low level members of the Baath party have resigned in protest against the killing of demonstrators. Some army units in Daraa rebelled when ordered to fire on civilians and fought with loyalist troops (of a division run the president's brother Maher Assad). The government blames it all on foreign agitators, and keeps running pictures of dead soldiers on TV and trying real hard to demonize the demonstrators. This is not working, but the Assad loyalists continue to believe they can massacre their way out of this. Iran has apparently promised all manner of support, and ordered its client Hezbollah to provide reliable gunmen for the nasty jobs (killing civilians.) Most Western governments have advised their citizens to get out of Syria, or stay out if they were planning a visit.

Syria is not seeing a lot of outright violence, but there is obvious, and widespread, unrest and anti-government activity. Posters of president Bashir Assad are disappearing from the sides of buildings and from along roads. There is a lot of anti-Assad graffiti. The security forces are patrolling more, and apparently have orders to look more menacing. The people look back at the soldiers and police in an even more hostile fashion. The revolution has turned into an endurance contest, with most of the action being low key and not violent. So far, the government is losing, but it has not yet lost.

Turkey is trying to pressure the Syrian government to halt the violence against its own people. But Turkey is doing this quietly, so far, and is not openly criticizing the Assads. That may change if the killing continues. In an effort to help that along, the exiled leadership of the Syrian branch of the Moslem Brotherhood called for members in Syria to join the demonstrations and fight to overthrow the Assad government. The Syrian branch of the Moslem Brotherhood was crushed, with great brutality and loss of life,  over 25 years ago. The surviving leadership fled the country, but some members remained behind, and have quietly recruited and prepared for another uprising ever since. The Brotherhood in Syria does not have a lot of manpower (a few hundred core members), but a large minority of Syrians are inclined to back Islamic radical organizations like this (because they are seen as fearless and less corrupt.)

Efforts to get the UN to impose some sanctions, or at least condemn the use of force by the Syrian government, have failed because of Russian and Chinese opposition. China, of course, is still a communist police state, and is currently committing the same kinds of atrocities as the Syrian government. Russia, while a democracy, invented the form of police state so popular in dictatorships these days, and still does business with most of them. These two permanent security council members (who can veto anything) are supported by other dictatorships (Cuba, North Korea) and countries controlled by radicals (Lebanon, Venezuela). Sort of thug mutual assistance league.

April 28, 2011: The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) announced that it believed the Syrian structure destroyed by an Israeli air raid in 2007 was a nuclear reactor under construction. This is nothing new, as details of the IAEA have been leaked, but now the conclusion is official.

Gunfire was heard in the border town of Tal Kalakh, and soon after the Syrian border guards allowed over a thousand Syrian civilians to flee into Lebanon.

April 27, 2011: At least 30 tanks entered Daraa, and began running regular patrols in areas that had the most demonstrations. Meanwhile, some 200 members of the Baath Party (which has ruled Syria for over half a century) from Daraa and surrounding areas, resigned to protest the violence against civilians.

April 25, 2011: In Daraa, a town of 75,000 near the Jordanian border, some of the 5,000 troops from the 4th and 5th infantry divisions, sent to stop the growing rebellion there, opened fire on each other. This began when soldiers of the 5th division refused orders to fire on civilians. Soldiers from the 4th division, run by the president's brother Maher Assad, were seen firing on the troops who mutinied. Since then, soldiers have been fighting each other in Daraa and the military effort to take control of the town has been stalled. Soldiers are trying to arrest those they believe to be rebel leaders, and are firing on any civilians seen trying to enter a cemetery (to prevent rebels from honoring their dead).  

April 22, 2011: The usual Friday (the Moslem day of prayer) increase in demonstrations was met with more violence from the army and police. There were over 500 casualties, and nearly a hundred dead.

 

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