March 8, 2012:
The government has increased the use of force to suppress anti-government activities. Thousands of civilians, and far fewer armed rebels, have been killed in the last few weeks. Russia, China, and Iran have led the effort to prevent outside aid for the Syrian rebels, especially military aid. The state-controlled Russian media, for example, is full of stories about hundreds of foreign agents and mercenaries in Syria causing most of the violence. Syria insists that all the unrest is the result of foreign agitators, spies, and mercenaries. Or to put it another way, the CIA, Mossad, and Blackwater (which changed its name twice in the last three years) are responsible for all the recent problems in Syria.
This propaganda campaign, largely unreported in the West, resonated with Arab populations long sustained by state-supported paranoia and conspiracy theories. As a result, a growing number of Arabs are not as eager to do in Syria what was done in Libya. With Arab League support wavering, the Turks are also not willing to cross the border and quickly settle the matter. Even the Sunni tribes of western Iraq, who are religious and tribal kin to some Syrian Sunnis, are not enthusiastic about sending lots of people and guns to help out. The Iraqi Sunnis have to worry about the Shia majority in Iraq, who favor the minority Shia dictatorship (the Assads) continuing to control Syria.
Another thing that is helping the government is the al Qaeda assistance for the rebels. The Islamic terrorists are mostly coming in from Iraq, where counter-terrorism efforts have been increasingly effective. Al Qaeda uses their usual terror tactics which kill civilians as well as soldiers and police. This provides the Syrian, Russian, Chinese, and Iranian media with excellent anti-rebel material. Often al Qaeda does not work closely with the Syrian rebels, knowing that their ideology and tactics are not popular even with most rebels.
Encouraged by its use of a little ultra-violence, Syria has warned foreign news organizations to stop sending reporters. Syria takes no precautions to avoid harming foreign journalists and unofficially, probably specifically targets them. To placate the UN, the government has allowed UN approved aid efforts into some parts of the country (that have been cleared of rebels). Peaceful demonstrations are still allowed, although the army continues to use troops, including snipers, to occasionally fire on the crowds.
The U.S. and other Western nations now favor treating Syria like Iran and using lots of sanctions. The Syrian attacks on civilians, and the deaths of thousands, will be deplored and, for all practical purposes, ignored. Syria, with financial aid from Iran, can survive the sanctions. The demonstrators (mostly Sunnis not affiliated with the government) suffer most from the sanctions, which is fine with the Assads.
March 7, 2012: Abdo Hussameddin, the deputy Minister for Oil, has quit the Syrian government and joined the rebels. Hussameddin said he was alarmed at the savage treatment his government has applied to demonstrators.
March 4, 2012: Canada has joined the United States, Britain, France, and Switzerland by closing its embassy and withdrawing its ambassador.
March 1, 2012: Armed rebels pulled out of the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs as Syrian troops and tanks advanced into the area. This comes after nearly a month of artillery bombardment.