Monday, February 20, 2012

Assad Sending Reinforcements To Crush Homs; Resistance Grows Across Syria

Bashar al-Assad is incapable of tolerating any dissent despite claims that he's authorizing a referendum to amend the constitution to grant other parties beyond the Ba'athists to engage in the political process. He's sending reinforcements to Homs to crush the ongoing rebellion there, and that's only going to increase the death toll as civilians attempt to fend off the Syrian military alongside a growing number of defectors.

Observers think that Assad wont be able to retake Homs since residents there are willing to fight to the last man. To Assad, that may not matter. He is following in his father's footsteps in crushing those opposed to his regime.
Syria-based activist Mustafa Osso told The Associated Press he does not think the regime will be able to retake Homs through military force as residents plan to fight until "the last person." He added that Homs is facing "savage shelling that does not differentiate between military or civilians targets."

Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said he expects the regime to try retake the Baba Amr district of Homs. Many Syrians call Baba Amr "Syria's Misrata," a reference to the Libyan city where rebels fought off a brutal government siege for weeks, managed to hold the city and went on to play a key role in overthrowing dictator Moammar Gadhafi last year.

"The human loss is going to be huge if they retake Baba Amr," Abdul-Rahman said.

The Observatory said that Monday's shelling of Baba Amr killed five civilians.

In neighboring Lebanon, security officials said at least three wounded Syrians were brought for treatment in the eastern town of Chtoura. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said the wounded came from the Baba Amr attacks.

Amateur videos posted online showed what activists said were shells falling into Baba Amr. Black smoke billowed from residential areas.

Clashes between military rebels and Syrian forces are growing more frequent and the defectors have managed to take control of small pieces of territory in the north as well as parts of Homs province, which is Syria's largest stretching from the border with Lebanon in the west to Iraq and Jordan in the east. Increasingly, Syria appears to be careening toward an all-out civil war.

Assad's authoritarian regime may be trying to subdue Homs — an important stronghold for anti-Assad groups — before a planned referendum Sunday on a new constitution. The charter would allow a bigger role for political opposition to challenge Assad's Baath Party, which has controlled Syria since a 1963 coup.
Assad has no intention of ceding power. That's the bottom line, and he's undertaking actions that constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity in order to remain in power. He's more than willing to murder thousands upon thousands of Syrians to show those surviving that he's going to continue to remain in power.

Even as more and more of Syria resists Assad's loyalists and seeks to engage in a new political order, Assad will resist to the end. He's following a path we've seen previously with Libya's Mumar Khadafi. Assad may well think that his forces are still capable of crushing the rebellion and prevent an all out civil war, but we're already seeing a civil war as rebel forces are operating from territories within the country where the loyalists are unable or unwilling to enter.

The diplomatic efforts to prevent further bloodshed aren't going to succeed as long as Assad continues to think that he can crush the rebellion. War crimes and crimes against the humanity aren't going to be an impediment to his actions. Artillery barrages against cities like Hama or Homs will continue to inflict civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, Iran sent two warships to Syria to train Syrian naval forces. It's a sign of support and shows just the kind of regimes that are still backing Assad.

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