Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Syrian uprising almost over?

According to DEBKAfile the Syrian uprising is almost over. This may be exaggerated but it is clear that the government offensive is having results.

However, I think the article misses part of the story. For a long time Assad had reacted rather low key to the protests. There were reports of snipers or soldiers now and then killing a few people at some demonstrations but there were also places where demonstrations lasted for months without problems. And according to reports 80% of the army stayed in the barracks. On the other hand the armed resistance seemed to be on a rather small scale although on some days battles with government troops were reported where several hundreds died.

Assad may have hoped that the protests would simply peter out. But he may also have used them as a counterweight against the more conservative forces in the country in order to achieve more openness. Wahabi-American policies prevented this to work by sabotaging all negotiations. A third reason may have been to prevent worse. Even government sources admit that its initial reactions to the uprising in Daraa - for which the local governor is blamed - were counterproductive. Putting down an uprising is not that easy: too much violence and too many innocent victims will lead to indignation that fuels the uprising. Assad's forces may not be refined enough to accomplish this.

Then suddenly, a few days before the UN debate the armed resistance was all over the country and even reported to be very close to Damascus. One general even concluded from this that the regime was about to fall and deserted. This offensive was probably an effort to influence the UN debate. However, it also seems to have convinced Assad that a crackdown was necessary.

According to the Economist: "More recently, the state-owned press has spoken ominously of the need to shift away from what it terms “restraint”. A new security plan does indeed seem to have been launched on February 3rd, a day seared in Syrian memories as the anniversary of [...]1982[...] Hama"

But Syria's trouble isn't over yet. Saudi Arabia has directed some 1500 Al Qaeda fighters from Iraq to Syria while there are also reports that some Sunni tribes in Iraq discuss sensing fighters to Syria.

This article at the BBC ("Syria's slide towards civil war gives an impression of how cruel both sides can be.

In the mean time Western countries keep discussing intervention strategies. That this may have much wider consequences is shown both by Russia preparing its special forces and Assad threatening Israel.

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