Security forces assaulted demonstrators in the volatile Syrian cities of Homs and Hama on Tuesday as Arab League monitors visited, witnesses told CNN.I hold out little hope that the Arab League will do anything to stop the violence in Syria. There's not much else they can do, other than pressure and cajole the regime. They don't have the power to force Assad to stop the brutalization of the Syrian people, and it's not like the other countries that comprise the Arab League haven't tried using the excuses Assad has used to explain the violence, and the resulting crackdowns.
Loubna, a Homs resident who asked that her full name not be used for security reasons, said she saw security forces shoot tear gas and bullets at protesters at Clock Square in downtown Homs, where thousands gathered. She saw seven injured people, said dozens were arrested, and she and others ran for safety to nearby houses.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition activist group with contacts across the country, said more than 70,000 protesters tried to enter Clock Square but security forces used tear gas to disperse them.
Danielle Moussa saw a similar sight in the city's northeast neighborhood of Khalidiah, where thousands of people gathered. "I saw several get shot and I ran," he said. Moussa is an opposition activist whose group was working to retrieve bodies.
Around 35,000 protesters turned up in the neighborhood of Khalidiah, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition activist network, reported. The observatory estimated around 20,000 protesters in Khalidiah.
Assad is going to use the Arab League monitors as cover for his ongoing crackdown. He can point them to Homs, as he clears out his military there, while engaging in opposition elsewhere in the country. He's going to manipulate the observers, limit what they can see or do, and present them only with one-sided information.
And every step of the way Assad will blame every spasm of violence on terrorists, no matter how far-fetched the claims may be. It's not like some of the Arab League member states haven't fallen back on that same strategy in dealing with their own Arab Spring protests (see Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, etc.). They blamed outsiders, rogues, and terrorists for violence, and justification for brutalizing the protesters. Assad's just taking that to a whole new level of violence.