Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Assad's Regime Has Killed 750+; Detained 10,000+ In Ongoing Crackdown

Bashar al Assad isn't holding back in his regime's crackdown against the opposition. At least 750 people have been killed according to human rights groups and more than 10,000 people have been detained by the regime to break the opposition protests that are still occurring daily.
The Syrian government widened its crackdown on Tuesday to include more cities and towns. Activists in Syria said army troops, backed by tanks, entered Hama, in central Syria, and several southern villages near Dara’a, the impoverished and besieged town in a region known as the Houran that has become a symbol of the uprising

“The big question now is what’s next,” said Wissam Tarif, executive director of Insan, a Syrian human rights group. “They are about to announce victory but what will happen when they pull the troops out?”

At least seven people were killed in demonstrations on Monday night – three in Maadamiyah, a Damascus suburb, and four in Deir al Zour, a town in northeastern Syria, he said.

“The people are very angry and they swear they will be protesting again,” a resident who lives near Othman Bin Affan mosque in Deir al-Zour said by telephone. The protesters were killed in front of the mosque, which security forces closed two weeks ago to worshippers to prevent them from organizing demonstrations.

Heavy gunfire was also heard Tuesday in at least four southern villages, including Inkhil, Dael, Jassem, Sanamein and Nawa. Activists reported casualties though the numbers were difficult to ascertain, given the difficulties in communication and the Syrian government’s suppression of independent news gathering. Phones have been cut in most besieged towns and cities.

The military operations came as activists called for daily protests across the country on the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page, an Internet-based opposition group.

“The Tuesday of solidarity with prisoners of conscience in the jails of the Syrian criminal regime,” the page said. “The demonstration will continue every day.”

In the capital, Damascus, security forces reinforced their presence, setting up more checkpoints and sending out more patrols, residents there reported. The measures came after 250 people, including university students and professionals, staged a small demonstration on Monday night in Arnoua Square in the heart of the city. The protesters, holding banners that read, “stop the siege on our cities,” and “a national dialogue is the solution,” were quickly dispersed by plainclothes police. Thirty-two of them were detained, according to Mr. Tarif.
One of Assad's key allies in Syria says that the regime is going to fight the protests to the end. Rami Makhlouf, one of Bashar's cousins and a tycoon in the country has warned that the unrest has a possibility of spilling over into a regional conflict including Israel.

At least one protest leader has said that the beginnings of a civil war are under way in Syria. The increasingly strident tones by the opposition in the face of the violent crackdown has sent people scurrying for refuge in Lebanon:
Calling himself Nisr min Tel Kalakh (the Eagle of Tel Kalakh), the young opposition leader, who could not be named for security reasons, says that he hopes the uprising remains peaceful. But he predicts that the intensifying crackdown by the Syrian security forces will plunge the country into an armed civil war.

“We are all expecting for Syria exactly what happened in Libya – a revolution against the regime, an armed struggle against the regime. It will happen soon,” he says, in perhaps the first interview of an underground opposition leader based inside Syria with a Western reporter. Until then, he adds, the protesters are willing to die for their cause.

“We will defend ourselves by baring our chests to their bullets and fighting with our bare hands. Our cause is righteous. Even if we lose 2 or 3 million people, we are willing to put up with that high price to get what we want,” he says.

Escape route

Dozens of residents of Tel Kalakh have used the narrow causeway in the past two weeks to enter Lebanon, where they have sought shelter with relatives and friends. Some spend just the day in Lebanon before making the short journey back to their homes in the evening. One resident telephoned "Nisr," the young leader, inside Tel Kalakh and he agreed to meet for an interview. Thirty minutes later, he appeared on the opposite bank of the Kabir River.
Meanwhile, some analysis is likening Assad's strategy to sit and wait, but it appears that they haven't been paying attention to Assad's use of his father's Hama rule. Assad gave an interview where he said that was again promising reforms, but like his claims that he lifted the country's 40-year old emergency law, they are nothing but empty statements.

The fact is that Assad is using tanks and the threats of reprisals to go after the heart of the opposition groups in key areas like Dara'a, Homs, and other areas throughout the country. The detainment of thousands of people is also meant to disrupt the possibility of a coordinated uprising against his regime. He's not interested in reform but in crushing the nascent rebellion and maintaining a tight hold on his family's power, regardless of the consequences for his countrymen.

The Atlantic has an interesting piece about how the many discordant countries of the Middle East are suddenly strange bedfellows hoping that Assad can maintain his grip on power because of the fear that the Arab Spring will spread to their countries. Saudi Arabia

Curiously added to the mix is Israel. It seems that whenever someone talks about the Middle East, Israel's actions suddenly come into question - in this case, it's that Israel would prefer Assad over whatever might come next because they'd prefer the authoritarian to the Islamist. That's nonsense and pure supposition.

Israel is prepared to deal with whoever is in power in Damascus in the same way. Israel would consider land for peace if there's a real peace to be had. Assad isn't a partner in peace, nor is he the reformer that observers and media outlets had tagged him not so long ago. A new regime in Damascus could openly show ties with Iran, which has already signaled its intent to wipe Israel from the map, but all this indicates that Israel will keep a close watch on the situation and take unilateral action when necessary to thwart Syrian threats towards Israel's safety and security (such as the Sept 2007 raid destroying Syria's covert nuclear program).

Syria hasn't challenged Israel directly through its military because it has repeatedly shown itself to not be a match. The same can't be said of Syria's proxies in Hizbullah and Hamas, each of which are capable of inflicting serious damage on Israel and Israel's economy via a rocket/mortar war. Assad has moved into an asymmetric warfare phase with Israel rather than trying to deal with the superior IDF in a straight up fight.

Iran doesn't want to lose a major client state and Saudi Arabia hopes to gain leverage with Assad despite their ideological and religious differences. It's about maintaining the status quo among multiple failed states and Islamic regimes whose main exports besides oil is terrorism and religious fundamentalism that is antithetical to womens' rights, political or religious freedom or free speech.

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