Potential Hot Spots: Syrian Rebels Mysteriously Disappear

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October 12, 2011: For the past few weeks, the police have been kidnapping suspected rebels, usually teenagers. It's not known where all of them are held, or even if many of them are still alive. Based on the reports getting out, it appears that this operation involves several thousand victims. The government, as usual, denies that the program even exists. The growing use of terror tactics by the government has caused more people to flee the country. Nearly 8,000 are in Turkey, with thousands also in Iraq and Lebanon.

Expatriate Syrians also complain of harassment in their new homes. Syrian exiles in eight countries have openly accused Syrian diplomats (and secret police pretending to be diplomats) of harassing and threatening pro-democracy Syrians abroad. This is a tactic the Iranians have been using for decades, and apparently some useful tips were passed on to the Syrians. Nevertheless, Iran continues to demand that Assad cut a deal with the rebels to stay in power, or at least keep a pro-Iran government in charge.

In the city of Homs (160 kilometers north of the capital), the government has been more open about its violence, using tank and artillery fire to blast rebel neighborhoods. Cell phone pictures and videos get out, and this hurts the government a lot. There are believed to be dozens of casualties a day in Homs, which has become one of the centers of armed resistance to the Assad dictatorship.

The UN estimates that nearly 3,000 people have died in six months of violence.  Most of the victims have been civilians killed by the security forces. As more men desert the army, they bring with them first-hand accounts of the brutal tactics they were ordered to use against demonstrators and civilians in general. The government has increasingly prevented foreign journalists from getting near military and police operations, or any civilians who might be rebels. There are plenty of loyal Syrians in the capital that the government allows foreign journalists to interview.

The rebels are also using the Internet to spread news about government tactics, and local informers. The secret police has long used an extensive network of paid informers to keep tabs on anti-government activity. Now, the names, and pictures, of suspected informers are showing up on the Internet. This puts the informers on the defensive, and shuts a lot of them up.

Although China and Russia both vetoed recent UN efforts to sanction Syria, both nations are now openly demanding that the Assad family enact meaningful reforms and halt the violence against the Syrian people. This indicates that Syria's friends in the UN are wavering, and even Syrian allies see the rebels gradually gaining ground. While Assad, unlike Kaddafi, has kept quiet, embarrassing pictures and videos are getting out. Kaddafi boasted openly about how he was going to crush the rebellion, and that played a major role bringing in foreign air power to help the rebels. Assad apparently noted that, but even without making open threats to rebels, the Syrian rebels are being slaughtered and the evidence is showing up on the Internet, and the international media. Syria's foreign supporters are taking the heat for this violence, thus the calls from Russia and China to make a deal. Assad refuses to settle, and is willing to bet that he can crush the rebels before the international community can organize a rescue effort. While Assad has told China and Russia that he is preparing a new constitution, it’s unlikely that he will give up enough power to satisfy the rebels. In fact, Assad refers to the armed opposition as "gangs" that must be destroyed. Assad has used all that innocent blood to paint himself into a corner.

October 10, 2011: The victorious Libyan rebels (the NTC, or National Transitional Council) has recognized their Syrian counterpart (the Syrian National Council, or SNC). Many UN members (especially non-democracies) opposed the NATO bombing campaign in Libya, and don't want the same sort of thing to happen in Syria. Such a trend would threaten the leaders of the many non-democracies on the planet. China is still a communist police state. Russia, while officially a democracy, has turned into an oligarchy run by former members of the KGB (secret police). Neither of these countries wants democracy to spread.

October 8, 2011: Troops fired on the funeral of a prominent Kurdish politician (Meshaal Tamo), who was gunned down by masked gunmen yesterday. Tamo used to be an Assad supporter and senior government official. But Tamo broke with the government, and was just released from prison (after 3.5 years) as a government peace gesture. Tamo promptly sided with the rebels, and was killed. His funeral attracted over 50,000 people and turned into an anti-government demonstration.

October 4, 2011: Turkey has ordered more military exercises on the Syrian border and warned Syria that there must be reforms, and less violence against the Syrian people. For the moment, Turkey is only threatening more sanctions, but Turkey is the one nation that could march in and end the Assad dictatorship in a few days. This would be unpopular with most Arab governments, who have bitter memories of centuries of Turkish imperial rule (that ended in 1918.) At the same time, when the Turks were in charge, the Islamic Middle East was a major power. That ended with the demise of the Ottoman Turk Empire. There are memories of that as well.

 

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