Quelling the Revolt: Will the Opposition Take up Arms?

Bashar al-Assad is determined to quell the Syrian revolt, which is why he has sent in the military with tanks and is now arresting the network of opposition activists and leaders that his intelligence agencies have been able to track.

There is an element of “shock and awe” to the operation. Tanks are clearly not useful for suppressing an urban rebellion, but they demonstrate the superior firepower of the state and the determination of the president. It is a classic military strategy – go hard and quick. Take out the opposition before t has a chance to harden and develop a durable command a reliable cell structure. This is precisely what the US military tried to do in Iraq. It is what it failed to do in Libya, when it allowed Qaddafi to regroup and regain control of Tripoli and Western Libya after his initial confusion and weakness.

I do not believe that the regime will be able to shut down the opposition. Unlike the Iranian opposition, which was successfully put down, the Syrian opposition is more revolutionary, even if, perhaps, not as numerous in the capital. The Green movement did not call for the overthrow of the regime and an end to the Islamic republic, but only reform. The Syrian opposition is revolutionary. Although it began by calling for reform, it quickly escalated to demand an end to the regime. It is convinced that reform of the Baathist regime is impossible and Syria must start over. It wants an end to the Baath Party, an end to Assad dynasty, an end to domination of the presidency and security forces by the Alawite religious community, and an end to the domination of the economy by the financial elite which has used nepotism, insider trading, and corruption to monopolize the ramparts of trade and industry. In short, the opposition abhors most aspects of the present regime and is working to uproot it. It is more determined and revolutionary than was the Iranian Green movement that Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei successfully suppressed.

There is no reason why it won’t do this. Some of the leadership of the opposition is dedicated to peaceful means, but this pacifism is not universal. Already we have witness the resort to arms by the opposition. In Banyas, nine soldiers were shot while driving down the main highway into the city by armed opposition elements. In Jable, demonstrators had armed themselves with clubs, shovels and other weapons. Although useless against firearms, these weapons demonstrated the mood of the crowd and willingness to oppose state violence with violence of their own. Syrian authorities have insisted from the beginning that opposition elements have been shooting at police and the military. Even if only a small percentage of these reports are true, it suggests that the opposition is willing to use force.

In the face of the state’s superior military and willingness to use force, the opposition will be forced to turn to military means itself. The opposition leadership has already been able to smuggle loads of satellite phones and electronic equipment in to reinforce their activists inside the country. Smuggling arms will not be hard. The Syrian government has reported stopping several truck loads of arms being smuggled in from Iraq already. Both Lebanon and Iraq are awash with arms and the smuggling routes between them and Syria are well traveled. The Gulf will be a source of money and support.

Militant groups in Iraq and elsewhere have long argued that Syria is a cockpit of the Middle East and a proper target for destabilization, etc.

A FEW QUESTIONS from a journalist and my responses:

Journalist: Do you think the protesters will breach the capital in large numbers? Do you think they HAVE to do that in order to overthrow Bashar?Landis: The opposition has yet to be successful in bringing out the middle classes and upper middle classes in the cities. The monied classes have too much to lose from prolonged instability, and the opposition cannot offer them any convincing scenario for a peaceful transition to democracy or regime change. They fear instability above above regime repression.

If the military and middle classes stay loyal to the government, the opposition will have an uphill battle.

A long grind to the bottom

But the opposition does not HAVE to bring Damascus and Aleppo onto the streets to bring down the regime. If they can do enough to paralyze the Syrian economy – as it is now paralyzed – the government will slowly fail. If business comes to a halt, tourism collapses, and foreign investment ceases, private enterprises and small businesses will go bankrupt and government revenue will dry up. Eventually the regime will be unable to pay salaries to state employees, and government services will stop. When this happens, the middle class will abandon the regime. It will be a long grind to the bottom.

Journalist: Given the relative disorganization of the opposition _ and the prospect that they’re taking up arms _ wont a power vacuum if Assad goes be potentially SERIOUSLY deadly?Landis: Yes.

Assad’s Crackdown Could Drive Syrian Opposition to Armed Revolt
Interview with Joshua Landis by Guy Taylor | 25 Apr 2011
World Politics Review | Trend Line

The sudden deployment of tanks and infantry into the Syrian city of Daraa on Monday has some observers wondering whether the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may soon devolve into a civil war comparable to the one raging a few hundreds miles away in Libya.

“If the opposition wants to continue to press its cause, there’s only one way to do it, and that’s through armed struggle,” says Joshua Landis, a professor of Middle East studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Landis, who maintains Syria Comment, a leading English-language blog on Syrian politics and society, tells Trend Lines that such a development is “likely to happen.”

Groups opposing al-Assad’s government have already built an infrastructure that would allow for the emergence of a secret militarized movement, Landis told Trend Lines, while adding that a serious armed response by the opposition “will take some time, because the government is arresting people right now and trying to tear down those networks that have developed.”

The goal behind the government’s deployment of tanks was to create a “shock and awe” effect against the uprising, said Landis. “They’re going to try and go in hard and fast and bring this to an end.”

During recent weeks, al-Assad had “hoped that he could get on top of this by making a few concessions, and that failed, so now he’s going to try and stamp this out,” Landis explained. “So it’s going to have to go bloody, and if the opposition wants to continue, they’re going to have to meet force with force.”

Such a development would most likely involve the movement of weapons into Syria by elements loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood based outside of the country.

“The Muslim Brotherhood would have to play a role in arming the opposition, because [regional] governments are not going to do it,” said Landis, noting that Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria’s other neighbors in the Persian Gulf “will not want to see the Assad regime fall, because the danger is that it will empower Islamic groups that are in the best position to be able to fight the regime.”

He added that while Syrian opposition groups in the United States and Europe will call for support for an armed uprising if one breaks out, the likelihood of a U.S. or European intervention on the side of an armed opposition to al-Assad is unlikely.

“Many of the realists in Washington and Europe . . . are frightened about the fall of this regime, because they believe the outcome is going to be civil war, not democracy. And that means a lot of refugees.”

Landis said, “Europe is already choking on Muslim refugees, and they’re not going to want to take more in.” He added that “there are hard days ahead. America’s allies in the region — Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia — are going to be supporting al-Assad . . . because they fear a civil war in Syria, which will mean refugees and a rise of extremism in the region. They fear that they’ll get sucked in.”

* Joshua Landis recently wrote this analysis on Syria for Time magazine.


Ayman Abdalnour, the Syrian opposition activist that runs the site all4syria, did not traveled to Israel, as this news story, claims.

Ayman has published a denial:

رد على اكاذيب سليمان معروف وقناته الدنيا وفبركة زيارة ايمن عبد النور لاسرائيل

نشر فى: غير مصنف

المعارض السوري أيمن عبد النور يزور تل ابيب

سربت مصادر إعلامية إسرائيلية الثلاثاء 26/4/2011 معلومات عن زيارة الإعلامي السوري المعارض أيمن عبد النور إلى تل أبيب خلال الأسبوع الماضي.

وأكدت المصادر وفق ما ذكر موقع “أخبارسورية” أن عبد النور التقى خلال زيارته التي استمرت يومين عدداً من قادة الاستخبارات الإسرائيلية من بينهم (عوفي . ز) المسؤول السري عن الملف السوري في جهاز المخابرات الإسرائيلية، مبينة أن من رتب اللقاء هو محمد دحلان القيادي السابق في حركة فتح والذي يلعب دوراً هاماً في تنسيق اللقاءات الإسرائيلية مع أعضاء المعارضة السورية.

UAE Stands Alongside Syria Amid Current Crisis

Syria Crackdown May Signal Brutal New Phase
By: Anthony Shadid | The New York Times

The Syrian Army stormed the restive city of Dara’a with tanks and soldiers and helped detain dozens in towns across the country Monday in an escalation of the crackdown on Syria’s five-week-old uprising….. the United States State Department urged American citizens not to visit the country and said Americans already there should leave immediately.

The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory late Monday calling for the evacuation of diplomats’ families and non-essential personnel at the U.S. embassy. It also urged U.S. citizens in Syria to leave the country immediately.

About 400 Syrians have already lost their lives in Syria’s unrest, and at least 25 people have been killed so far in Dara’a during Assad’s latest crackdown.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the U.N. Security Council was considering steps to punish Syria for its brutal suppression of dissent. European and U.S. officials have distributed a draft statement that condemns the crackdown, and supports U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s call for an independent investigation of events in Syria.


In a further dramatic escalation, yesterday the Syrian army .. Amidst all the upheaval in the Middle East, the crisis in Syria is perhaps the most serious conflagration for the West – not only because of the country’s crucial strategic position as a neighbour of both Israel and Iran, but also because there is no possible outcome that is likely to benefit either Western interests or enhance the spirit of democracy.

The Philippines on Tuesday urged its 17,000 citizens in Syria to leave, in the face of growing violence there. MANILA (AFP)–

Comments (102)

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101. Abdo said:

توقفوا عن هدا الهراء ان الحالة السورية هي مواجهة بين الكيان السوري الحالي بمكوناته شعب حضارة قيم اقتصاد اديان الخ و مخطط الظلام الغربي ! و لعل أكثر الامور سخرية أن يقوم مجلس الأمن و السلم الدولي بالمشاركة في تقويض الأمن و السلم بعينه ! عالم هراء يقوده أشرار ويلكم من عواقب أفعالكم ! عاشت سورية بلدي الحبيب عزيزة كريمة

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April 27th, 2011, 2:47 pm


102. News roundup — April 27 — War in Context said:

[…] Quelling the revolt: will the opposition take up arms? […]

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April 27th, 2011, 8:36 pm


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