Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What's Happening in Syria?

If you want to read a gripping account of the situation in Syria, take a look at Spiegel Online International's article, "Running from the Ghosts of Damascus."
For two hours, Nabil plays dozens of videos, including images even Al Jazeera won't show, images of heads ripped off, bodies torn to pieces, severed feet, targeted gunshot wounds to the ears, eyes, forehead. There are pictures of severely injured people being given basic treatment at improvised medical stations, which the resistance uses because people are often abducted from hospitals. In one scene, armed men jump out of an ambulance. "Shabiha or security forces," Awad says. "That's happened so often, people are afraid to take the injured to the clinics anymore."
According to the accounts in the article, the main source of terror and repression isn't the army -- although it is retaking control of cities, but the massive regime security forces and secret police, personally loyal to Bashar al-Assad.
the regime's true backbone is the security forces and secret services, believed to employ up to 400,000 people in their network of terror units, all competing to torture and kill. Their creator, former President Hafez al-Assad, managed all members as far down as mid-ranking officers.
If these forces remain loyal, and the army doesn't turn on the regime, Assad has a good chance of retaining power. There are, however, some signs of cracks in his control.
Hundreds of dead soldiers have been turned over to their families with bullet wounds and no further details about their deaths. Another 1,000 or more have deserted. In Deir ez-Zor, a colonel is said to have defected together with some of his troops. The regime is growing increasingly concerned about its own army, says a soldier in Damascus. "Until five weeks ago, you only needed a military ID to pass through checkpoints anywhere in the country," the soldier explains. "Now you have to have a permit for each leg of the trip, or they'll suspect you as a deserter."
If the conscript army decides to turn on Assad, that could bring him down. But so far it hasn't happened.

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