Friday, December 23, 2011

Syria's Assad Continues Crackdown as Violence Escalates Even Further

Despite reports that Bashar al-Assad is allowing observers into the country from the Arab League to curb the ongoing crackdown against protesters, the violence has been ratcheted up significantly over the past week as reports of army desertions accelerate.

Today, reports of a massive explosion in Damascus should give everyone pause over any claim that the Arab League will somehow reduce the violence.

The explosion targeted security and intelligence headquarters buildings, and more than 30 people were reported killed:
More than 30 were killed and 100 wounded in bomb attacks targeting security and intelligence buildings in Damascus on Friday, the Syrian government said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad announced the death toll while accompanying an advance team of Arab League observers to the scene of the blasts, which state TV says targeted security and intelligence headquarters and appeared to have been carried out by al-Qaida.

Mekdad said the blasts bolster the Syrian government's claims that the turmoil shaking the country since March was the work of terrorists and armed gangs. "We said it from the beginning," he added.
The blasts were the first such attack in the Syrian capital since the start of the uprising against President Bashar Assad in March and came a day after the Arab League observers arrived in the country.
Assad has been claiming that he's going after terrorists and that he hasn't been targeting civilians. He'll likely point to today's explosion as proof that he's been right all along, and he'll bolster that by claiming that thousands of his security forces have been killed. It's one of the reasons, his regime was quick to post news and video of the aftermath of the attacks for everyone to see. It's so that he can justify further bloody crackdowns against the opposition protesters throughout the country that have suffered horribly to date.

That would just ignore all the facts on the ground - thousands of civilians killed, including women and children by the regime's security forces. It is the ongoing orders to go after civilians that have led Syrian soldiers to desert their posts and take up arms against the regime. Loyalists have been fighting with these deserter groups, which is why the death toll has risen sharply in the past two weeks. If he throws the number of deserters killed in with his own troop figures, you might begin to get an idea of the death toll, but with UN and human rights groups noting a toll at least double that of what Assad is claiming, the ongoing violence has taken quite a toll on the civilian population, particularly in places like Homs and Hama, although there are increasing signs that the crackdown has spread to other parts of the country, including in and around Damascus itself.

Perhaps even more ominously, Assad's crackdown in Syria is spilling over into Lebanon, where Assad loyalists, including Hizbullah terrorists, are only too happy to oblige in cracking down against anyone speaking out against the Assad regime.
The target appears to have been a Syrian relative of the dominant local tribe, the Qarqouz, who had taken refuge in the village, which lies just a few miles from the Syrian border. With close families ties on both sides of the line, as well as a central government presence that doesn't even live up to the designation of "weak," the tribes make little distinction between Syria and Lebanon, and many make their livings plying that most cliché of all Beqaa trades: cross-border smuggling.

Whether the wanted man is a dissident Syrian remains unclear -- the family certainly denies any such thing. Nevertheless, the raid by Hezbollah's internal security apparatus follows a pattern of harassment, kidnapping, and cross-border rendition of Syrian anti-regime activists by Syria's many loyalists in Lebanon, which also include rogue police units, pro-Syria political movements, and even Kurdish separatists. As President Bashar al-Assad looks to squelch an astonishingly persistent nine-month revolt, Lebanon is fast becoming another battleground between supporters and opponents of his rule.

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