Syria’s protesters, long mostly peaceful, starting to resort to violence

Anthony Shadid reports:

Syria’s uprising has become more violent in the country’s most restive regions, in what may signal the start of a protracted armed struggle after six months of largely peaceful protests in the face of a ferocious government crackdown, diplomats, activists and officials say.

Reports have mounted of clashes in Homs; in the outskirts of the capital, Damascus; in the southern Houran region; and at the border near Turkey. Officials and diplomats have spoken of at least three ambushes of military vehicles — two buses and a jeep — in Homs, in which at least five soldiers were killed. Activists have reported other clashes between soldiers and deserters in several regions of Syria.

Though the degree of violence remains unclear, the changing dynamics underline what has become a reality of Syria’s tense stalemate: The longer President Bashar al-Assad remains in power, the more violent the country will become, even if no one knows what will follow him if he is ousted from power. Propelled by frustration, the opposition’s resorting to arms would probably serve the interests of the government, adding validity to its otherwise specious contention that it faces an armed insurgency financed from abroad and driven by the most militant Islamists.

“It is quite simply a trap that the protesters will fall in,” said Peter Harling, an analyst for the International Crisis Group who travels to Syria often.

As on past Fridays, the country witnessed a spasm of violence, as security forces sought to crush protests that, by many accounts, have lost some momentum in recent weeks. At least 44 people were killed, and military strikes, with tanks and armored vehicles, continued around Hama and in northwest Syria, a rugged region near the Turkish border. The newly dead added to one of the region’s grimmest tolls: more than 2,600 killed by government forces, according to a United Nations count, and possibly tens of thousands arrested since the uprising began.

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One thought on “Syria’s protesters, long mostly peaceful, starting to resort to violence

  1. Colm O' Toole

    People need to thread carefully on the Syrian issue. Most would agree that the best thing would be for Assad to just step down now.

    For me the worst case scenarios would be a NATO Intervention or an Iraq-style civil war in Syria. A NATO Intervention would be extremely unpopular, would instantly make the democracy movement into a puppet force, and most importantly could cause Iran to retaliate since they have for years promised to defend Syria against any Western Invasion. An Iraq Style civil war cannot be discounted either since the religious makeup is identical except with Shia’s the minority and Sunni’s the majority this time round. Any civil war would dragged Saudi and Iran into each others crosshairs again.

    The best scenario would be either Assad stepping down or the business-military elite around Assad forcing him to go. Alot has been said for how this leadership is effectively a Mafia but the sanctions are biting hard into the business owners they might end up determining that Assad is a liability and dropping him like the SCAF did in Egypt.

    Joshua Landis over at Syria Comment had a good piece talking about the view from the Syrian business community (a group that is powerful to force Assad to leave power).

    All in All a democratic Syria would probably be very similar to the Syria of previous years from an outsiders view. On Foreign Policy not much will change since Assad’s most popular policies were his Foreign Policy ones as opposed to his domestic policies. A 2007 poll found that 75% support funding Hezbollah and Hamas and 51% would be willing to sign a peace deal with Israel if Israel returned the Golan Heights.

    Another 2010 poll found where that the problems lay in domestic policy not foreign policy. 87% thought the government was corrupt, 80% wanted the Emergency Law lifted and only 39% described their financial situation as “good”.

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