Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War
July 19, 2011: In four months of growing violence, nearly 1,500 people (mostly civilians) have been killed. Thousands more were injured and over 10,000 have been arrested. The Syrian government blames all the unrest on foreign agitators (the U.S. and Israel are frequently mentioned), while ignoring the Assad family dictatorship that has trashed the economy and run a police state since the 1960s. The violence keeps growing, and unless the government does something drastic, the rebels will win. The government has two options. They can try ultra violence, but the secret police report that this would likely lead to civil war, with the U.S. and Iraq (and many other nations) backing the rebels. The other choice is to implement so many reforms that Syria becomes a democracy. But that would put the Assads out of power, and likely on the run from prosecution for corruption and murder. Iran, which depends on Syria as a base for supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, and a way to obtain forbidden military equipment, is eager to keep the Assads in power, and is sending more security experts to help with spying on the rebels and deciding how to use lethal force to best effect. The Iranians are good at this sort of thing.
Police are shooting to kill in Homs and several other towns on the Lebanese border. At least a dozen have been killed in the last 24 hours. In the last week, there have been several hundred casualties and nearly a thousand arrests. Syrian secret police are monitoring phones and Internet access, so many Syrians are using code words when referring to their anti-government activities.
Qatar has closed its embassy and sent its diplomatic personnel home. This came after the government organized violent "demonstrations" against several embassies (of nations that were pressuring the Syrian government to make real reforms). In addition to the Qatar embassy, those of the United States and France were also hit. Qatar was a target because that tiny Persian Gulf nation is home to satellite TV news station al Jazeera (which has been particularly critical of Syrian brutality against dissidents.)
July 18, 2011: At least a thousand Syrian troops are surrounding the Iraqi border town of Albokamal. Here, rebels, and many soldiers who have joined them, have taken control. The nearby border city of Deir el Zour has half a million residents, most of them anti-government Sunnis, and is also showing signs of more unrest. The government has been reluctant to use violence against rebels and dissidents in this area, because the Sunni tribes here are related to tribes across the border in Iraq. If the Syrian tribes get involved in an armed confrontation with the Syrian army, the Iraqi tribes will provide support for the Syrian rebels. But the situation in Albokamal has gotten out of control, and the rebels there must be suppressed, or Albokamal will become a rebel base.
July 17, 2011: Over the weekend, at least 30 people were killed in Homs, as pro and anti-government factions fought each other. The pro-government factions tended to be minorities like Shia and Christians.
July 15, 2011: Several hundred Syrian rebels met in Istanbul, Turkey, to try and form an alternative government. That would bring foreign aid, and official recognition. But the Syrian rebels are split into many factions, and unity is not easy. This is the third such meeting, and some progress has been made. A 25 member National Salvation Council was elected, and this group has to choose who will run a rebel government. The new Council called for more demonstrations, and more civil disobedience. Meanwhile, the army and police are using more violence against the demonstrators. This is causing more soldiers to desert, with their weapons. Over a thousand troops are believed to have done so by now, but a lot of them just went home, rather than joining the rebels. Soldiers are particularly impressed by the growing size of the demonstrations. In Hama alone, over 400,000 gathered today.
July 13, 2011: The Arab League has criticized the United States for calling on the Syrian government to stop killing Syrians. The Arab League considers this unwarranted interference in the affairs of an Arab state. The Arab League largely consists of autocrats and dictators, men very much like the Assads that rule Syria. Meanwhile, Syrian rebels are increasingly calling on soldiers to desert, and more soldiers are doing just that.
July 11, 2011: The U.S. has declared that the Assad clan has lost legitimacy, and that a new government is needed in Syria. France has been saying much the same thing.
July 8, 2011: More anti-government demonstrations today, as happens every Friday. Government efforts to discourage this have failed, and each Friday the crowds are larger and showing up in more places. To put more pressure on the government, the U.S. ambassador went to Hama, to speak with demonstrators.