Syria: The Endurance Contest


May 8, 2012: Although senior officials in Turkey and Israel have openly asserted that the Assad government is, eventually, doomed, the end is not going to be soon or without lots of casualties. This assessment is based on the extent of the unrest and the inability of the Assad dictatorship to crush the opposition. But the opposition is still not strong enough to overthrow the Assads by force. Both sides believe time is on their side. Casualties are now at several hundred a week, most of them civilians. Yet the demonstrations continue and spread. Some small (and brief, gone before the cops show up) demonstrations are showing up in the capital, in neighborhoods considered pro-Assad.

Armed attacks against the security forces are also increasing. Many of these fighters were soldiers or policemen and are ambushing soldiers and planting bombs. Islamic terror groups are doing most of the bombing and do not appear to be coordinating their operations with the FSA ( Free Syrian Army). The Islamic terror groups are getting aid from similar groups in Iraq, while the FSA is getting weapons and equipment from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states via Jordan and Turkey. The FSA bombs are often against obvious targets, like government buildings. The goal is not to kill a lot of people but to embarrass the government. The Gulf Arab states appear to be increasing their aid to the rebels. Iraq is officially neutral, but the mostly Sunni Arab population along the Syrian border supports their Sunni brethren on the other side.

There are over 11,000 dead in 14 months of unrest. There are also over 70,000 refugees (20 percent in Jordan, the rest split between Lebanon and Turkey, with a few percent in Iraq). There are even more internal refugees. The UN has to deal with the fact that the Syrian government has repeatedly lied about a ceasefire and that Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, and Russia are helping Syria beat the UN sanctions.

The opposition, which represents most Syrians, wants foreign intervention but there's not enough enthusiasm for another Libya. The Assads are not as murderous or as unpopular (with fellow national leaders) as the Kaddafis in Libya. But the protestors keep getting video out showing the government violence, so the pressure to intervene builds and won't go away. The secret police are also seeking out and killing the most effective civilians who have been putting pictures and videos of government violence on the Internet. Thus, anyone reporting from within Syria has to keep their identity secret, lest they become targets for government death squads. All this appears to be helped along by Iranian advisors, who have used similar tactics back home.

While unrest in several cities or large towns gets most of the media attention, there is unrest in hundreds of locations that are not mentioned in the media. In most places the police stand back because they have no troops available for support. The army is spread thin because most of the troops are conscripts and not trusted to attack people like them. Incidents of army violence are increasing, as are the number of army casualties filling the hospitals and the number of army deserters.

The main UN effort at this point is to get 300 observers into Syria and sent to as many locations as possible. So far, the observers have found that the government has lied about withdrawing troops and reducing violence. Most Syrians believe the UN observers are simply there to watch unarmed civilians die.

May 7, 2012: The government held multi-party elections, the first since the Assads took over in the 1960s. Most Syrians see this as a fraud because truly opposition candidates were not allowed to run, only pro-government ones.

May 5, 2012: In Aleppo a large car bomb went off, killing five. Two bombs also went off in the capital. Aleppo was, until recently, largely free of demonstrations. But most residents opposed the dictatorship and have now come out and are demonstrating. The police and soldier fired back.

May 3, 2012: Police raided the university in Aleppo, killing at least four people and seeking demonstration leaders.






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