For More Items On Syria, See The Potential Hotspots Section.
January 4, 2012:
Arab League efforts to calm things down in Syria have failed so far. The team of Arab League observers was criticized because the team leader was a Sudanese general accused of involvement with war crimes (killing civilians). Sudan is also an ally of Iran, which backs the Syrian dictatorship. The deal was that Syria would allow observers to witness Syrian security forces not attacking protestors for a month. Syria tried to deceive the observers on this point, but failed. Syria would also release prisoners and open negotiations with protest groups. About ten percent of the nearly 40,000 prisoners were freed, but apparently these were largely innocent people to begin with. There have been no negotiations and Syria continues to insist that the protests and attacks are being staged by foreign agents. Syria insists that the U.S. is behind recent terror bombings. In return, the Arab League would not impose more economic sanctions. But Syria has refused to cooperate and the Arab League is now forced to escalate. The Arab League is under pressure by its members to withdraw the observers right away. The Arab League originally wanted 500 observers but Syria agreed to 150 and only let 70 in, and tried to keep them away from any violence. This failed and now Syria has lost any remaining credibility it had with the Arab League.
Many opposition groups are calling for foreign intervention and armed rebel groups are escalating their attacks. As a result, a recent opinion survey in Syria showed a little more than half the population wants to get rid of the Assads, mainly because they fear a destructive civil war. Syria may have a Sunni Arab majority but the Sunnis are divided into many tribal and political factions. Most Syrians hate the Assads but most fear what will follow the dictatorship. What happened next door in Iraq after Saddam Hussein's branch of the Baath Party was overthrown in 2003 has not been ignored.
Some 6,000 civilians have died in ten months of violence. Despite vigorous, and increasingly violent, government efforts to halt the demonstrations, huge public protests still take place. The government efforts to intimidate the population into silence have not worked and the Assads appear to have run out of ideas and options.
The government admits that 2,000 of its soldiers and police have been killed and rebels insist many more have deserted as well. The government is believed to hold nearly 2,000 army deserters who were captured (before or after deserting). The
rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) has offered to coordinate its operations with Arab League efforts to get the Syrian government to halt attacks on civilians. Some Syrian border guards are still firing on refugees and rebels on the Lebanese and Turkish borders, but most are keeping quiet and inactive.
Aid from Qatar has begun to arrive at refugee camps in southern Turkey. A growing number of Syrians are fleeing to Turkey and Lebanon. The Turks are tolerating Syrian rebel bases in Turkey.
January 3, 2012: A natural gas pipeline in central Syria was cut by an explosion. There have been several attacks like this in the last few months. This hurts the government by cutting income and creating unhappy citizens who are now without fuel.
January 2, 2012: The Arab League declared that Syrian security forces were killing civilians despite the presence of Arab League observers. While the Arab League eventually became aware of the Syrian government trying to stage what the observers saw, the Arab League also took credit for getting Syria to pull some tanks and artillery from the cities where violence was still going on. But overall, the Arab League observer effort is seen as a failure.
January 1, 2012:
Israeli defense officials believe that the Assad family only has a few weeks left in power. Israel believes that the fall of the Assads would be a major defeat for Iran, which used Syria as a base for supporting pro-Iran Hezbollah in Lebanon. The armed rebels are expanding into more areas but are still mostly in the north. Desertions from the Syrian forces continue and a growing number of loyal soldiers are surrendering to the rebels. This is unnerving for the Syrian government, as the army is shrinking from desertions and those that remain are seen as less reliable.
December 31, 2011: The UN demanded that Syria cooperate with the Arab League observers, who are to confirm that Syria is not killing its own citizens. The observer effort failed.
Two major opposition groups, the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the National Coordinating Committee for Democratic Change (NCC) have agreed to join together to overthrow the Assad dictatorship. These two groups have not gotten along in the past, but now the removal of the Assads is seen as more important than anything else. These two groups do not want foreign intervention, although air support, as in Libya, is still a possibility. At this point, no foreign air forces have made themselves available for this work.
December 30, 2011: Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that controls Gaza, is pulling many of its personnel out of Syria. Hamas has long had officers, and many senior leaders, based in Syria. Other Arab terror groups have also found sanctuary in Syria, and they are all seeking new homes and, like Hamas, are beginning to move personnel out.
December 26, 2011: Arab League monitors arrive in Syria. They are supposed to remain for a month.