Syria: Just Do It

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August 27, 2012: Western reporters got into the suburbs of the capital and saw the mass graves of civilians, executed by Syrian soldiers. Over 500 such bodies have been found so far. These deaths were the result of a four day assault by the Syrian Army. That attack failed and Syrian rebels regained control of the area.

A senior Iranian official, who recently met with Syrian dictator Hafez Assad, says that Assad is willing to negotiate with the rebels. The rebels are no longer interested. Because of the ferocity of Assad forces in the last week the rebels have concluded that Assad is determined to win no matter what the cost. That attitude has turned this into a death match. That, in turn, has alarmed Alawites that have not taken part in the war against the rebels. Assad, an Alawite, is heavily dependent on the Alawites in the army and secret police. Not all Alawites agree with this terror policy and fear that the recent savagery of the Assad forces will mean retaliation against all Syrian Alawites eventually. Alawites are only about five percent of the population. An even smaller number of Alawites (five clans, comprising a few thousand people, depending on which distant cousins get counted) control most of the power and much of the wealth in the country. Few of these Alawites are deserting their government or military posts. But these Alawites are moving assets to foreign countries and making arrangements to send their families. Actually, a larger-than-usual number of Alawites have gone abroad for their vacations this year and few have returned. Most Alawites are not wealthy enough to "migrate." They will have to flee if Sunni gunmen come looking for revenge. Some are not waiting and are joining the growing flood of refugees headed for Lebanon (where there is a large, but still a minority, Alawite population).

Fighting continues in Aleppo and Damascus but the government does not have enough reliable troops to chase down and destroy the poorly armed and supplied rebels in these two cities. Each day the rebels become stronger and the government forces weaker. The government has tried to address these manpower shortages by forming Alawite militias (often with Iranian help). But these gunmen will rarely leave their neighborhoods, feeling that their main responsibility is to defend their own families. These militias often commit more atrocities at neighboring Sunni communities. This further angers the Sunni majority (about 75 percent of the population). The government depends more and more on their artillery and air strikes, which mainly kill civilians and does little to intimidate them into being obedient.

In addition to more than 200,000 people who have fled to neighboring countries, over a million have tried to find refuge inside Syria. This has caused a problem because there is not enough shelter or food for all these internal refugees.

August 25, 2012: The head of Syrian Air Force intelligence was apparently assassinated by one of his aides, who had secretly joined the rebels.

August 24, 2012: A record number (2,200 in 24 hours) of Syrian refugees entered Jordan. Over 3,500 fled to Turkey in the same time period.

August 23, 2012: French officials believe that Assad is finished and are urging Western nations to establish a no-fly zone over parts of Syria so that relief aid, especially food and medical supplies, can get through to the millions of civilians cut off by Syrian security forces. The indiscriminate violence by the government forces and cutting off food and electricity to rebel held areas is causing much suffering among civilians. Even those who support the government are hurting. U.S. and Turkish military officials admit that they are planning for a no-fly zone operation but must await approval from national leaders in Turkey, the U.S., and other NATO and Arab nations before such an effort can begin. Iran and many Arab states are opposed to a no-fly zone, and Russia says it will block any UN approval. But NATO nations and some Arab states are more and more inclined to just do it.

August 22, 2012: The government has begun using more random attacks on civilians in towns and neighborhoods that the rebels control (or the government suspects the rebels control). This tactic is supposed to terrorize civilians into not supporting the rebels but it is not working. In addition to artillery and air strikes, the government is sending columns of several dozen armored vehicles into Sunni neighborhoods and executing suspected rebel supporters (often randomly selected civilians). The troops then quickly depart before rebel gunmen show up.

August 21, 2012: Across the border in Lebanon, local Sunnis and Alawites have been shooting at each other in the coastal city of Tripoli, causing dozens of casualties in the last two days. Lebanese security forces have been trying to halt this violence by groups supporting government and rebel forces in Syria but have not been completely successful.

August 19, 2012: President Assad made a rare public appearance at a mosque, for services celebrating the end of Ramadan. It's also been a month since four of Assad's senior associates were killed by a bomb in the capital. Not much has been seen of Assad since then.

 

 

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