Potential Hot Spots: Strange Days In Syria

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Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War 

August 16, 2011: Turkey is threatening to invade to halt the Syrian government from killing its people. This has angered Iran, which is backing the Syrian government, with words and security personnel (advisors and death squads). While Iran has hailed all the other Arab uprisings this year, Syria has been declared a conspiracy by Israel, America and Arab tyrannies. If the Turks invade, the Syrian military is toast. Hated by its own people and long inferior to the Turks, the Syrian army would most likely fall apart, leaving, at best, a few particularly pro-Assad brigades to get torn apart by Turkish troops. Meanwhile, one of the most active rumors in the Arab world is that Turkey is secretly shipping weapons into Syria and training civilians to use them. There’s been no evidence of this, except in the Arab media. Turks ruled most Arabs for centuries, and the idea of the Turks “returning” is not very popular.  But the stories coming out of Syria are horrifying, especially reports (often accompanied by cell phone camera pictures) of people being shot while at funerals or coming out of mosques. These images and reports circulate in Syria, and as a result, in the last week, demonstrators have begun to call for the death of dictator Basher Assad.

A major factor in creating the Turkish threat is the statements of Syrian army deserters arriving in Turkey. These soldiers tell of orders to “shoot to kill” and use extreme brutality against demonstrators. There are also first-hand reports of Iranian death-squads, especially snipers who are assigned to seek out and kill leaders of demonstrations. In the last week, these brutal new tactics have raised the death toll by over 500 people, most of them civilians. Perhaps more ominous is the activity of Iranian security advisors, directing Syrian secret police to arrest, or murder, people believed to be demonstration leaders. There are a lot of these leaders, and many willing to step up if someone is killed.

The government has a limited number of trustworthy troops and cannot pacify the entire country at once. There are still anti-government demonstrations all over Syria each week.  So the government has several task forces that go into towns and cities, terrorize the population, and move on to another. But the terror usually does not take. For example, after turning Hama into a rubble-strewn ghost town, the army left, and the people returned, as feisty as ever. Noting this, the army turned around and came back to terrorize the Hama residents once more.  It’s an endurance contest that, so far, the government is losing. One reason for this is that the cell phone networks generally remain operational (the government is dependent on them as well) and word spreads that, while the population may be cowed in one city, the resistance continues everywhere else.

Meanwhile, most of the Syrians who had fled to Turkey have returned home. Only 7,000 Syrian refugees are still in Turkey, and nearly 10,000 have returned in the last week. This can quickly change if the army returns to the Turkish border.

August 13, 2011: Syrian troops invaded the port city of Latakia, while the navy had warships fire on the city as well. Over the next four days, over a hundred civilians were killed or wounded. New tactics were noted, probably at the advice of Iranian security experts. Troops ordered over 10,000 residents to surrender their ID cards and cell phones and moved them to a sports stadium, under armed guard. Many more civilians fled to avoid this.

August 11, 2011: The government has agreed to let Iran build a military base in the port city of Latakia, which will make it easier to handle arms shipments from Iran. The new base will handle shipments coming in by sea and by air. This all assumes that there will still be a pro-Iran government in the future. The Iranians believe that they have a shot at remaining friends with the new government. Money talks, and Iran has worked with the devil (al Qaeda, a notoriously anti-Shia group) before. Stranger things have happened in this part of the world.

August 10, 2011: Troops left Hama, which was largely deserted. Most of the population had fled or were hiding.

 

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