Monday January 30, 2012
No End in Sight for Syrian Uprising
By Jeffrey Wright
2012 Spring Intern
The ongoing crisis in Syria deepened over the weekend, as killings continued across the country and the conflict continued on a worrying slide toward civil war. 37 people were killed on Friday alone, as anti-Assad protests erupted following Friday prayers in Syrian mosques. 15 civilians were killed in the central city of Hama, which has emerged as a center of the revolt against the Assad regime. The other victims on Friday were killed in cities throughout Syria, including five deaths in the previously calm city of Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest. In yet another sign of the crackdown’s brutality, UNICEF reported Friday that 384 children have been killed and another 380 detained by security forces during the 10-month uprising. The conflict has also taken on an increasingly sectarian color. On Thursday, 14 Sunnis from one family, including eight children, were killed in Homs by militiamen from the Alawite sect, to which Assad and most senior security officers belong. This latest incident is a particularly gruesome example of the growing trend of targeted sectarian killings in Syrian cities, especially Homs and Hama.
An uprising that began as a conflict between peaceful protesters and violent state security forces is increasingly becoming a conflict between armed groups. Loosely coordinated bands of protesters and army defectors have formed armed militias to attack government troops and sabotage government infrastructure. The largest and best-organized of these groups is the Free Syrian Army, which reportedly controls parts of the Damascus suburbs. Syrian forces loyal to Assad launched an operation Monday morning designed to retake these areas from the rebels, just five miles from central Damascus. These armed militias operate independently and opposition groups like the Syrian National Council have little control over them. The continued militarization of the opposition increases the likelihood of civil war in Syria and gives the government ammunition for propaganda that portrays the conflict as one between a sovereign state and armed gangs.
While the killing continues inside Syria, diplomats from around the world have struggled to define the international community’s response. In response to increased violence in Syria, the Arab League suspended its monitoring mission on Sunday. The Arab League, along with France, has proposed a resolution to the UN Security Council which would condemn Assad’s crackdown and call for him to resign. Russian diplomats, however, have already stated that they are unwilling to endorse any measure which calls for Assad to step down and have instead proposed talks between Assad and the opposition in Moscow. Russia, which has long-standing military ties to Syria, has remained among Assad’s only allies. Many see such a resolution as the first step towards armed intervention in Syria, which some Arab countries have called for and others have opposed. The divisions among Syrian opposition groups further complicate the prospect of intervention. In the absence of any internal dialogue or outside intervention, it seems that Syria will remained mired in an increasingly bloody impasse.
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