Potential Hot Spots: Syrian Despots Will Fight To The Death

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Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War 

November 13, 2011: One of the few armed opposition groups, the FSA (Free Syrian Army), called for NATO or Arab nations to provide air support for the fight against the Assads. The FSA consists largely of armed men who have deserted from the Syrian armed forces. In the last two weeks, nearly 300 people, most of them unarmed civilians, have died. A growing number of the deaths are soldiers and policemen. The FSA is one of several armed groups that are carrying out guerilla type attacks on the government forces. The many checkpoints are very vulnerable to this, and the rebels usually kill everyone and take all the weapons, ammo, vehicles, radios and other equipment.

But the real threat to the Assads are the unarmed demonstrations that occur every day, and are especially large on Friday (when Moslems gather at mosques to pray). These crowds, if unmolested, can shut down the government and, as they have in a few places, drive out the Assad government officials. The government troops are too outnumbered to disperse the crowds with tear gas and clubs, so they end up firing into the crowds until the anti-government demonstrators flee. But pictures and vids of this are captured on cell phones and soon appear world-wide. The bad publicity, especially in the Arab world, is killing the Assads. But the family, accused of running the country for their own benefit (and doing so for decades), has not accepted offers of exile. The major issue is the loss of power. Running a country is addictive. But there is also the threat of prosecution for their many crimes.

The Assads have some hope. The current Arab Spring uprisings have not been disasters for all dictatorships. The oil-rich monarchies in the Persian Gulf have survived because they have, for decades, been sharing the wealth in order to stay in power. This year, the spending on their subjects was increased, some more riot police were deployed, and the Gulf aristocrats are riding it out. Not so lucky the less wealthy dictators. Their police states have proved incapable of surviving sustained pressure from their unhappy subjects. Even oil-rich Libya, where the people despised their eccentric and often cruel ruler, would not let an unpopular leader stay in power. The Assads are hated; they don't have a lot of oil wealth and unhappy Syrians keep protesting despite the bullets.

The worst nightmare for the Assads is the Arab League again calling for nations to use air power to halt the attacks on civilians. Many Middle Eastern rulers were not happy with how that worked out in Libya. But the scenario is playing out again. Syria has lied to and angered the Arab League, and now the League has to do something. But the only thing that will be sure to halt the violence against civilians (foreign intervention from the air) is the one thing the League does not want to do again.

The economic sanctions have forced the oil companies in Syria to halt most pumping. Normally, 350,000 barrels a day is produced, with about 150,000 barrels exported. Oil represents about a quarter of government revenue, and now that is gone. This is producing more hardship for anti-Assad Syrians, who are seeing food and fuel deliveries delayed or halted entirely.

November 12, 2011: Early today, the Arab League announced that Syria would be suspended from the organization on the 16th if violence against the Syrian people did not stop by then. The Syrian government angrily denounced the Arab League decision, indicating that the violence would not decline.  Later in the day, the Syrian National Council (SNC) called on Syrians to use more violence against the government. The SNC is a coalition of dozens of resistance groups that was formed last September, and is run by an assembly of 140 representatives of its constituent groups. The SNC and many Syrians want aerial intervention, as happened in Libya, to help the people get rid of the Assad family dictatorship.

Angry supporters of the Assads attacked the Saudi embassy. The Assad supporters see Saudi Arabia as the ringleader of the effort to force the Assads to stop the attacks on demonstrators, and eager to remove the Assads from power and replace them with a government less friendly to Iran (which is a major foe of Saudi Arabia at the moment.) Some damage was caused at the Saudi embassy when rocks were thrown through windows.

November 11, 2011:  The regular Friday protests were as large as ever, and the army and police used more firepower to disperse them. There were hundreds of casualties and at least 66 dead. The number of pictures and videos that got out of Syria showing the violence made it clear that Syria was not honoring its pledge to stop killing its citizens.

November 10, 2011: Several Middle Eastern leaders urged the Assad family to flee into exile while they still could. The Syrian people were encouraged by the gruesome death of Libyan tyrant Moamar Kaddafi on October 20th, and as more civilians are killed by Assad's troops, more Syrians want the Assads to end up like the Kaddafis.

Syria apologized to Lebanon for several recent incidents where its troops entered Lebanon in pursuit of Syrian rebels. Syria also pointed out that much of the border is not clearly marked.

November 7, 2011:  Troops moved into the city (of about 1.2 million) of Homs, after laying siege to the place for over a week. Hundreds of armed deserters have formed a defense force in the city, which has been bolstered by hundreds of civilian volunteers.  The troops took control of some, but not all, of the city. In the last six months, about 600 people have been killed in Homs.

The army attack on Homs enraged the Arab League, because Syria had promised on November 2nd to cease attacks on its own people. There were smaller incidents of troops firing on crowds after that, but nothing as large and obvious as the attack on Homs.

November 5, 2011: The government freed 550 people who had been arrested for demonstrating against the government. This was done to appease the Arab League and means nothing. The arrests were intended to get demonstration organizers, and often the police grab the wrong people. Over 50,000 people have been arrested and some have to be released to make room for new prisoners.

November 4, 2011:  The U.S. warned Syrians not to believe their government's amnesty offer, as there were indications that anyone accepting the amnesty was arrested and jailed.

November 3, 2011: The government announced an amnesty for armed protestors.

 

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