Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Syrian Opposition Launches Attack on Syrian Military Base; Crackdown Continues

The situation in Syria is continuing to decline at a precipitous rate. The death toll from Bashar al Assad's crackdown is increasing, and dissension within the ranks of the military is sparking additional violence as the military units that have broken with the regime are under assault from loyalists to Assad.
The developments came after what some activists portrayed as one of the bloodiest episodes in the eight-month uprising. Reports were conflicting, but one human rights group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, said that more than 71 people were killed Monday, including 34 soldiers engaged in clashes with army defectors. If true, the deaths of the soldiers would constitute one of the highest tolls since defectors began carrying out attacks against government troops.

But unlike past episodes, when the Syrian government publicized the deaths of soldiers and security forces, official Syrian news outlets carried no reports about the clashes.

The Local Coordination Committees said it could not corroborate the Syrian Observatory’s account of the military casualties, though it also called Monday one of the uprising’s bloodier days, with at least 51 civilians killed. “We don’t have any confirmation of what they’re claiming,” said Omar Idlibi, a spokesman for the committees.

Reports of the violence emerged on Tuesday as the Syrian government announced that it had released 1,180 prisoners, in what appeared to be an effort to show flexibility and sincerity only hours before the Arab League foreign ministers were set to meet in Rabat. A terse official announcement of the prisoners’ release said only that the freed prisoners had been “involved in recent events” and had not committed murder.

Rights activists confirmed that the freed prisoners included Kamal Labwani, a prominent lawyer halfway through a 15-year sentence for having insulted Mr. Assad. Reuters quoted his daughter as saying that Mr. Labwani had no idea that Syria was in the throes of an upheaval, having been denied outside contact.

The uprising in Syria, one of the most strategically important countries in the Middle East, has become the latest focal point among the Arab revolts that have toppled autocrats in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Faced with Mr. Assad’s intransigence, the normally placid Arab League voted last weekend to suspend Syria from the group. On Monday King Abdullah II of Jordan called on him to step down. King Abdullah is the first leader from one of Syria’s Arab neighbors to go that far.

On Tuesday, officials of the Foreign Ministry of Russia, which has been one of Mr. Assad’s steadiest remaining allies, met with emissaries of the Syrian National Council, an opposition group. The group said that it failed to gain Russia’s support for anything more than a dialogue with Mr. Assad.
Assad has repeatedly attempted to claim that he's engaging in reforms and carried out several amnesties since the protests first began, but the numbers and actions tell a completely different story. Assad's loyalists have captured protesters off the streets and have disappeared them into the security apparatus. Attacks have accelerated against the protesters opposed to the regime. That's not reform; that's Assad's regime doing everything possible to remain in power and crushing those opposed to his regime. It's what autocrats and dictators do.

The events in Syria are about to enter into a new more bloody phase, particularly after defecting military forces attacked a major Syrian military base doing serious damage.
Syrian army defectors have attacked a major military base near Damascus, Syrian opposition groups say.

Parts of the notorious Air Force Intelligence building in Harasta were reported to have been destroyed, but there were no reports of casualties.

It would be the Free Syrian Army's (FSA) most high-profile attack since Syria's anti-government protests began.
The FSA formed a few months back, and while it claims to have 15,000 members, that's probably a wild overstatement. Still, military actions against Syrian loyalists and military bases is a major escalation that Assad will likely use as a pretext to using even more military force. Opposition groups have to coordinate better with each other and with foreign diplomatic corps to gain support as leverage against Assad. But with more of these kinds of attacks likely, Assad is looking at an armed insurrection.

Stay tuned.

The Arab League has gone and given Assad another chance, one he was completely undeserving of getting. The League has given Assad more time to show that he's ceasing his brutal crackdown and delayed Assad's suspension from the League:
In a meeting of foreign ministers here in the Moroccan capital, the league offered Syria a new deadline of three days to accept the plan, which calls for the government to withdraw its troops from cities and stop firing on protesters. The move effectively delayed Syria’s suspension, suggesting that the league still believed its plan was viable, despite a death toll this month that activists put at nearly 400.

The league’s move appeared to be a last-ditch attempt at diplomacy, though officials were reluctant to describe it as such. Syria has long played a pivotal role in the 22-member league, and appeared to have been taken aback by Saturday’s decision to suspend its membership. The league did not say what would happen if Syria failed to comply with the latest offer.

“What is happening in Syria is very sad to all of us,” Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheik Hamad Bin Jassim Jabr al-Thani, told reporters in Rabat on Wednesday evening. “We must take difficult decisions and force Syria to respect its obligations.”

“We should stop wasting time while people are getting killed,” he added.

There was no immediate response from the Syrian government. The government of President Bashar al-Assad refused to send a representative to the foreign ministers’ meeting.

The league’s turnabout raised questions about whether an organization long derided in the region as ineffectual, even a joke, could take on a more vigorous role in a tumultuous time. Expelling Syria would have offered the most vivid illustration of the country’s growing isolation, as European and American sanctions accumulate, countries withdraw ambassadors from Damascus and its former interlocutors become sharp critics.

“Nobody can predict what will happen next,” said an editorial Wednesday in Al Quds Al Arabi, a pan-Arab newspaper based in London. “But what we can be sure about is that the time for diplomatic solutions has come to an end.”
The Arab League did this all while Assad was busy murdering civilians and opposition groups. He was setting his loyalists against diplomatic missions throughout the country, forcing the diplomats from several countries to flee as their facilities were ransacked. Fact is, those attacks were premeditated and acts of war against all those countries involved. The League blinked. Assad gets another undeserving chance as a result.

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