Monday, April 25, 2011

Syria's Assad Expands Crackdown Against Protesters

Syria's Bashar al-Assad isn't wasting time in going after the opposition to his regime and he's sent tanks into restive areas to pacify them.
The Syrian Army sent tanks rolling into the restive southern city of Dara’a and carried out arrests in poor towns on the capital’s outskirts Monday in a sharp escalation of a crackdown on Syria’s five-week-old uprising, according to human rights activists and accounts posted on social networking sites. They said at least five people were killed in Dara’a, and bodies were in the streets.

The move into Dara’a seemed to signal a new chapter in a crackdown that has already killed more than 350 people, with the single highest toll on Friday. So far hewing to a mix of promised concessions and blunt force, the government indicated Monday that it had chosen the latter, seeking to crush a wave of dissent in virtually every Syrian province that has shaken the once-uncontested rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

Residents said at least eight tanks entered Dara’a at dawn from four directions, and there were reports of artillery and mortars being used. Phone lines were cut to the area, making first-hand accounts difficult, and nearby border crossings with Jordan were sealed from the Syrian side, Jordanian officials said. But video smuggled out of the town depicted a cloud of black smoke rising on the horizon with volleys of heavy gunfire echoing in the distance.

Protesters said the toll was almost sure to rise. Bodies were in the streets, but snipers on rooftops prevented residents and medical personnel from retrieving them.
Even as the regime paid lip service to the notion that the emergency law was lifted, Assad's forces were busy clamping down and using deadly force to disperse protests and attacking funeral processions of those killed in earlier protests against Assad's regime.

The Guardian wonders whether the violent crackdown wont work this time in Syria, but that ignores that the last time the Syrian regime faced a similar uprising, Bashar's father Hafez slaughtered thousands in Hama and disrupted the Muslim Brotherhood in the process. A regime that maintains a tightly-controlled military and uses force willingly against its own people can brutalize and terrorize a populace into submission even in the face of a popular demand for reforms. If and when the Syrian army decides not to open fire on fellow Syrians will Assad face a true test of his regime. To date, his military forces have shown no unwillingness to open fire on peaceful protesters.

Meanwhile, the US is considering additional sanctions against Syria's regime. That will do little to stop the ongoing violence.

MSNBC puts it bluntly. Assad has declared war on the democracy movement in Syria, which means that he's not going to be satisfied until his regime crushes the opposition completely and thoroughly.

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