Desperate Men Take Desperate Measures
August 7, 2012: In Aleppo the government has brought in over 10,000 additional troops and hundreds of armored vehicles. Artillery, aircraft, and helicopter gunships continue daily attacks on actual or suspected rebel targets in the city. Several thousand troops are already in the city but all they do is chase rebel groups from one area to another. The additional troops are apparently there for an attempt to keep rebels out of all the city neighborhoods. That will be difficult because the city of 2.5 million is mostly pro-rebel and desertions from the security forces are increasing.
President Assad's whereabouts has been kept secret since the July 18th bombing that killed four of his close associates. Assad has not been seen in public but has made several announcements. The July 18th bombing was the work of a low ranking employee at the facility bombed. The bomb was planted in advance of the meeting.
In the last week over a thousand people have died, most of them civilians. The security forces are losing more people than the rebels because the rebels rarely stand and fight. The rebels ambush the soldiers and police and then flee. The rebels don't have to kill all the soldiers and police, just demoralize them until they surrender or desert. Non-Sunni troops are deserting, although few of these join the rebels, they just want out. While Alawites are only five percent of the population, an even smaller number of Alawites (five clans, comprising a few thousand people, depending on which distant cousins get counted) control most of the power and much of the wealth in the country. Few of these Alawites are deserting their government or military posts. But these Alawites are moving assets to foreign countries and making arrangements to send their families. Actually, a larger-than-usual number of Alawites have gone abroad for their vacations this year and few have returned.
The government has lost control of most rural areas that are predominately Sunni and some that are not Sunni or Alawite. While not all Alawites oppose the revolution, all fear retribution for decades of Assad misrule. Many Alawites are forming armed militias, often with government assistance. These are largely defensive organizations but some have gone on the offensive in cooperation with soldiers or police. This has caused more violence between Alawites and Sunnis, and this stuff often gets very nasty.
The security forces (army, police, and secret police units) can control any area they occupy in force but that does not even cover the major cities (especially Damascus and Aleppo) where most Assad supporters live. These pro-Assad families have armed themselves and formed neighborhood militias to protect themselves from rebel raids. The rebels are so numerous that police and soldiers have to travel in armed and alert convoys because ambush is always a possibility. The government has to guard its remaining supplies of fuel and food, which are not being completely replenished. The major border crossings (that is, the main roads) are increasingly under rebel control or subject to rebel ambush. That keeps the government from getting needed supplies. The Assad government is running out of everything and the inner circle has to decide if they should flee, surrender, or fight to the death (possibly using their stock of chemical weapons). Israel fears that the Assads may launch some of their ballistic missiles, armed with chemical weapons, at Israel, to trigger an Israeli invasion and distract the rebels. That's a long shot but desperate men take desperate measures.
Four senior diplomats have defected while at their overseas posts. Over 30 senior army officers and thousands of troops have become refugees in neighboring countries. Many more troops have deserted and remained in Syria. Most have gone back home, especially if that was a rural town or village in a Sunni area where the government has lost control.
Food and other supplies are running short and at least ten percent of the population is going hungry. The rebels are working to establish food aid in rural areas. But in the larger cities, like Damascus and Aleppo, the government is trying to keep food out of neighborhoods it considers pro-rebel. This is easier to do in Damascus, where much of the rural areas around the city are non-Sunni. In Aleppo, there are a lot more Sunnis in, and outside, the city and Turkey (the main source of rebel supplies) is close by.
Nemo me impune lacesset,
|"The chief aim of all government is to preserve the freedom of the citizen. His control over his person, his property, his movements, his business, his desires should be restrained only so far as the public welfare imperatively demands. The world is in more danger of being governed too much than too little.
It is the teaching of all history that liberty can only be preserved in small areas. Local self-government is, therefore, indispensable to liberty. A centralized and distant bureaucracy is the worst of all tyranny.
Taxation can justly be levied for no purpose other than to provide revenue for the support of the government. To tax one person, class or section to provide revenue for the benefit of another is none the less robbery because done under the form of law and called taxation."
John W. Davis, Democratic Presidential Candidate, 1924. Davis was one of the greatest trial and appellate lawyers in US history. He also served as the US Ambassador to the UK.