In Syria the Assad government has either listened to its Iranian advisors or is simply returning to the brutal methods of the founding dictator of the Assad government. This can be seen in the new tactics used by government forces. The new drill involves the heavy use of mass murder to terrorize civilians into not giving any support to the rebels. The basic drill is to send in these special troops, accompanied by secret police operatives skilled at sniffing out those who might really be rebels. These Iranian trained troops proceed to round up military age males and kill them, along with any women and children who get in the way. Any of these males who might really be rebels are taken alive for questioning and usually killed later. The Assad forces stay out of pro-rebel villages at night because that’s when rebel fighters who might be around have an edge. But in the daytime it’s terror time.
Such mass murder of real or suspected opponents is an old Assad family tradition. Back in 1982, there was a large scale uprising by Sunni Arabs that was put down with great brutality. That bloodbath was ordered by Hafez Assad, the father of current dictator Basher Assad. The 1982 operation culminated in the town of Hama, where entire neighborhoods were blasted with artillery and infantry sent in to kill the survivors. The result was over 10,000 dead civilians and the end of the uprising. In Syria this did not, officially, happen. But everyone knows about it, especially those from Hama and surrounding areas. Over time the fear of a repeat subsided and that played a role in the current Sunni rebellion.
The current tactics appear to be the work of Iran, which has used similar tactics on its own people. Preparations began with a growing number of pro-Assad fighters being flown to Iran for training in special urban fighting and irregular warfare tactics. Iran was helping Assad to build a special infantry force of men trained in urban warfare. Iran is also paying for support from the Hezbollah Shia militia of Lebanon, which is supplying Assad with gunmen and supplies. Iran has apparently also encouraged Hezbollah to threaten an open invasion of Syria if the rebels do not give up. Currently the rebels have been shooting across the border at Hezbollah positions in Lebanon, and Sunni activists in Lebanon have been attacking and kidnapping Hezbollah members. Hezbollah fighters are increasingly seen on the Syrian border or inside Syria fighting rebels.
Iran tried to broker some kind of peace deal between the Assads and the rebels. This failed, partly because Assad was willing to fight to the death (or at least until he and his family took the last plane out). The rebels were not interested in any deals, believing that this would simply give the Assads and Iran a chance to make a comeback. Iran does not see this escalation as all that risky because they know that the Sunni Islamic radicals have no problem slaughtering and terrorizing Shia (as they did for several years in Iraq and continue to do so at a lower intensity level). For Sunni and Shia radicals, fighting like this is not seen as an abomination but God’s Will. When you get that attitude on both sides, things tend to get very ugly. Iran realizes that only a minority of the rebel forces are Sunni radicals (who are immune to this sort of savagery, especially the foreign terrorists who don’t really care how many Syrians are killed as long as they have a shot at turning Syria into a Sunni religious dictatorship). Situations like this also demonstrate why, in the last few decades, most Arab victims of organized violence have been killed by other Arabs, not Israelis or foreign troops.