Posted by on August 08, 2011 in Blog

Despite strong international condemnation from a number of states and interstate organizations, the Syrian government has continued its assault on the Eastern towns of Hama and Deir al-Zour. Both cities, the fourth and fifth largest in Syria respectively, have been central to the growing protest movement against the iron rule of Bashar Al-Assad. Both have witnessed the largest demonstrations in Syria to date, by some accounts numbering well into the hundreds of thousands, and significant parts of Deir al-Zour had previously been free from government control for several months.

Nevertheless, Syrian security forces launched large military campaigns in both cities, ostensibly responding to requests by “clan elders” to “protect the citizens and preserve the public and private properties.” The resulting carnage was among the worst to date, calling back memories of the 1982 military assault on Hama that left at least 10,000 dead. Though death counts are hard to verify, some estimate that at least 200 were killed in the past week’s assault.

International condemnation poured forth from all corners. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain have recalled their ambassadors, and the Arab League has expressed “growing concern” about the steady deterioration in Syria. Perhaps more importantly, the Turkish government issued a strongly-worded statement condemning the violence, and has dispatched Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to issue a “final warning” to the Syrian government directly.

The United States has been sharpening its language as well. Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a press conference that the United States “stands with the Syrian people and we condemn the Assad regime's violent campaign against them” while calling on “President Assad to stop the slaughter now.” President Obama also promised that “the United States will continue to increase our pressure on the Syrian regime, and work with others around the world to isolate the Assad government and stand with the Syrian people.”

Robert Ford, the U.S. Ambassador to Syria, has also grown increasingly vocal in recent days. Speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee–though only Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) bothered to sit through the whole thing–Ford spoke about the “barbaric conditions” of arrested protestors, and referred to the uprising as a “hugely important story about the struggle for human dignity.”

Ford is currently en route back to Damascus, where he has promised to continue meeting with protestors. “I'm going to keep moving around the country. I can't stop,” Ford told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour. He referred to the Syrian government crackdown “grotesque” and “abhorrent.”

Despite the ever-increasing international pressure, the Syrian regime appears to remain committed to a campaign of violence and repression.  Though Syria’s Defense Minister has been replaced, and the Foreign Minister has promised that “free and fair” elections will take place by the end of the year, the bloody crackdown has continued unabated, and few expect the international community to successfully mitigate the violence.  

However, the resistance appears to be growing increasingly organized, and reports of “Coordinating Committees” have popped up across Syria, perhaps signaling a new, more organized phase of the revolution. Though the situation continues to look bleak, perhaps the tides are finally turning in favor of the people. 

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