Monday, August 01, 2011
Over the weekend,Syrian troops loyal to Basher Assad attacked the city of Hama, the scene of a 1982 massacre by the Syrian Army that killed thousands.
Hama had been under siege by the army for over a month,and the army finally sent tanks into the city, firing their cannons and machine guns at civilian dwellings.
The death toll is unknown, but is said to be in the hundreds, as well as hundreds of wounded. A doctor who refused to identify himself said that most of the bodies were taken to the city's Badr, al-Horani and Hikmeh hospitals.According to residents, there were widespread cutoffs of electricity and water supplies to the main neighborhoods of the city. The Turkish paper Hurriyat reported a death toll of 95 as of yesterday.
The regime also sent the thuggish Alawite "shabbiha" militiamen into the city to terrorize the inhabitants.
The escalating government crackdown seems to be aimed at preventing the protests from growing during Ramadan. which starts at sundown today. After a day of fasting, many Muslims break the dawn-to-dusk fast and then hit the mosques during the month long holiday for special nighttime prayers - and of course, those fiery sermons.
With all that, Assad may have overreached.
As I wrote back when the revolt against Assad first broke out, there's a limit to how far Basher Assad is going to be able to take this. He's only remained in power thus far because his troops are still willing to shoot down their own people, but there's a practical limit to how long that can go on. And the killings aren't going to solve Syria's deep seated economic problems.
As a sign the limit might be pretty close to being reached, desertions are up in the Syrian military, especially among Sunni conscripts. Among them is a Syrian Major General, Riad El As'ad, who has deserted Assad's army along with a group of other officers, joined the rebels, and has announced the establishment of the "Free Syrian Army whose main goal will be to fight the army of oppression headed by President Bashar Assad".
As'ad has called on the Syrian Army not to wage war against their own people and to join him in liberating the country.
This could highlight the tribal part of the war, the struggle between between the Alawites, the minority Shi'ite sect to which Assad belongs that controls the country, and the majority Sunni sect which comprises 70% of the Syrian population and a large part of the army.
The only thing holding the Assad regime together is the army.And the army may be starting to become fractured.
If that happens, it's over and Assad is either heading for exile in a place like Tehran or for an end like Mussolini's.