Sunday, August 07, 2011

Ramadan Massacres

A week ago, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad began cracking down on opposition protests in Hama, killing hundreds. Today, he extended the massacre:
"The Syrian military defied growing condemnation and initiated another assault on the country’s most restive locales on Sunday, deploying dozens of tanks and armored vehicles into parts of a city in eastern Syria that it had long feared provoking, activists and residents said. Dozens were killed, they said, and thousands had fled the city.

"The attack before dawn on the eastern city, Deir al-Zour, came exactly a week after Syrian forces attacked Hama, a city in central Syria that had largely wrested itself from government control this summer. Like Hama, Deir al-Zour, in Syria’s oil- and gas-producing region, had been the scene of mass protests, with hundreds of thousands in the streets. But the military, wary of the city’s powerful and well-armed extended clans, had mostly stayed on the outskirts...

"By the count of some human rights groups, more than 2,000 people have been killed in the crackdown so far...

"Residents put the death toll in Deir al-Zour at 42, and one of them said a family of six trying to escape — a couple with four children — were among the dead. Activists said that many residents had left in recent days. A local man who gave his name as Maamoun said that pickup trucks packed with as many as 25 women and children each were fleeing down abandoned streets, trying to avoid the fighting."

Syria's crackdown has met with strong condemnation from Saudi Arabia. This we should view with a jaded eye, as a collapse of the Syrian regime would remove a competitor for Saudi influence in Lebanon. Another note is that these tribal links in Syria's east could give rise to a broader violent conflict similar to that in Yemen or Libya, with weapons flooding across the vast desert border with Iraq. I don't think, however, that we can actually say that Assad is done for, unfortunately. Aleppo and Damascus have yet to give visible signs of rebellion, and they are crucial.



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