Potential Hot Spots: Talk And Torture In Syria

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November 2, 2011: NATO has refused to intervene in Syria, as it did in Libya. The Syrian opposition has been increasingly calling for intervention. The Arab League also opposes such intervention. The Syrian government threatens to unleash the many terrorist groups it hosts, and have lots of influence over, if there is an intervention. Syria also implies that patron Iran would also stir up trouble if NATO warplanes came to the aid of Syrian rebels. Meanwhile, the Arab League has persuaded the Syrian government to accept a peace plan. This would involve halting the outright slaughter of demonstrators, and entering into peace talks with the rebels, over what reforms would be implemented. The rebels are unlikely to accept this deal, because the government cannot accept reforms that would threaten the Assad family's control of the government and the economy.

The Arab League is hoping that if the violence can be stopped, all this unpleasantness will just go away. That might happen, because while the Syrian Army gets most of the headlines for its firing on peaceful demonstrators, and killing dozens a day, the Syrian secret police are doing even more damage to the rebels, but doing it much more quietly. Rebel leaders are constantly on the run. A lot of the secret police informer network is intact, and the secret police always have lots of leads. While more and more of the rebels are now armed, the secret police can still muster more force that any group of rebels can. New prison camps are being established for the thousands (30,000 or so) of suspected rebels being arrested, and the secret police are known to use torture to get more information about who new rebel leaders are. People are not just being picked up off the street or in their homes, but in hospitals as well. Those injured in demonstrations are considered prime suspects, and easier to torture. But the secret police can't defeat the rebels alone. Because more and soldiers are deserting, the rebels will eventually have a formidable military force that the secret police will not be able to handle. Assad also knows that if he pulls his troops off the streets, the demonstrations may grow so large that the government will lose control, despite vigorous efforts by the secret police.

While the army has been increasingly active in breaking up demonstrations, the death toll is nowhere near what it was in Libya (25,000). In Syria, it is 15-20 percent of that, mainly because the army has been ordered to only use as much force as is needed to get people off the streets. The government believes that too many casualties will make foreign intervention more likely. This is made clear by China, Russia and the Arab League, who keep hammering Assad to stop the killing. Even patron Iran agrees with this, at least publicly. While the rebels are calling for Basher Assad to resign, they are also asking for thousands of officials and businessmen to give up lots of power and wealth. These are the people who run Assad's police state. There is reluctance by Assad's key followers to do this, especially when there is still a chance of outlasting the rebels and beating them down. If that doesn't work, there are the foreign bank accounts and updated arrangements for rapid departure for foreign exile.

Lebanese police agree with Syrian rebels, that Syrian agents have been kidnapping Syrian rebel leaders in Lebanon and taking them back to Syria. At least four have been taken recently. Ever since the Lebanese civil war of 1975-90, Syria has had a major influence on Lebanese internal security. Basher Assad's decision to pull Syrian troops out of Lebanon six years ago did not remove many Syrian secret police operatives and spies. The withdrawal decision was also not popular with Syria’s many business associates, and Baath Party fans, in Lebanon. These groups want the Syrians back, if only for the business opportunities, but that is not likely to happen. The illegal Syrian activities (smuggling, including drugs and people) continue, and Syria retains the capability to do lots of mischief in Lebanon.

October 27, 2011:  Syrian troops were seen planting mines along the Lebanese border. The Syrian government later admitted that it was mining the border, to prevent rebels from moving back and forth. Turkey also allows Syrian rebels to operate on its territory, and is intimidating enough to keep Syria from mining their mutual border.

 

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