Potential Hot Spots: Syria And The Slow Motion Revolution

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August 25, 2011: The popular revolution continues, and is apparently too widespread to be suppressed with one, large and savage attack on the heart of it. The government sees the struggle as a battle for survival, and is determined to keep it up until the rebels are crushed, or the government is defeated and the senior people are forced to flee to Iran (where prosecution for war crimes is less likely). The war is not likely to turn into something like Libya, not for a while, anyway. Syria is a much better organized police state than Libya (or the other Arab dictatorships that have fallen this year) and while Iran has quietly intervened on the side of the government, there’s not a lot of enthusiasm for anyone intervening on the side of the rebels. But that might change, because as time goes by, the list of government crimes, and rebel casualties, grows. At a certain point, bystanders (especially Turkey and Sunni Arab states), will be shamed into action. But for the moment, Turkey refuses to demand that the Assads step down. Nor does Russia, which is still willing to sell weapons to the Assads.

Iraq appears to have quietly decided to back Assad, realizing that a new government would be Sunni dominated and hostile to Shia Moslems (over 60 percent of Iraqis are Shia.) The ruling minority (12 percent of the population) are Alawite (Shia) Moslems. But most of the world’s nations want a new government in Syria, if only to eliminate a sanctuary for several of the most dangerous terrorist groups on the planet.

Once the reform movement became national, as it quickly did, the government was faced with a siege, not a single, climactic battle. The government has no choice but to rely on its Iranian security advisors, and to try and shut down the pro-reform organization in each city and town. This is very difficult. Because most of the population is behind reform, and insists on replacing the current government. So arresting local opposition leaders does not work, as others step up to take the place of those imprisoned (often in sports stadiums or hastily built prison camps.) Guarding these prisoners takes more manpower, and the government has a growing shortage of loyal gunmen for this job. Security forces are increasingly taking return fire when they shoot at demonstrators. The return fire tends to be from men who have deserted from the army, or are veterans. The fall of Kaddafi in Libya has encouraged the Syrian rebels, who see themselves fighting Iran, as well as the Assad dictatorship.

The media game at the moment is to keep holding demonstrations, no matter where, that can provide videos and pictures that can be distributed on the Internet. The government has hired a lot of professional criminals (which the secret police always had connections with) to guard smaller open places and open fire if they see a demonstration starting. The locals know what is going on, and have learned to look for the thugs, often pretending to be street vendors, guarding smaller squares and other open public places.

Over 2,200 have died so far, and the rebels have adapted to the government’s heavy use of fire power. Despite the security forces now ordered to “shoot on sight (of a demonstration”), instead of hundreds of casualties a day, there are now only a few dozen a day. But arrests are still frequent, although the lack of resources to cope with the growing number of prisoners is becoming a big problem.

The UN is openly calling president Assad a liar and imposing a growing list of sanctions on senior individuals, including Assad. Most Arab states, plus Turkey have condemned the government violence against the Syrian people. The UN is also increasing its sanctions against the Iranian Quds Force, a special organization that encourages and provides support for terrorism and pro-Iranian violence abroad. Quds has been particularly active in Syria over the last few months, showing the Syrians how to most efficiently terrorize their own people into submission. The EU (European Union) is willing to disrupt Syrian oil exports (350,000 barrels a day and a major source of foreign currency for buying foreign goods) by not buying Syrian oil. This would force Syria to quickly seek other buyers, and get less money for their oil.

For the last two days, the army has been raiding towns on the Iraqi border. These are Sunni Arab areas, with many residents belonging to tribes that straddle the border. For these tribes, this is all not just about bringing down the Assad family, but to avenge the tribe for members recently killed by the army and police.

August 23, 2011: Representatives of several Syrian opposition groups (tribal, political and religious) began meetings in Turkey to form a united opposition. Initial meetings revealed a lot of differences, but there was also a lot of determination to get past these differences to establish a true democracy.

August 17, 2011: President Assad went on TV and promised to stop killing demonstrators. He lied, and now the foreign criticism is much louder. Even the UN is making nasty comments about the Syrian leadership, and growing list of atrocities against their own people. Worse, Syrian troops have now been ordered to shoot on sight if they see a demonstration.

 

 

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