By Kareem Fahim, New York Times, Service, in Globe and Mail, December 22, 2011
Syrian rights activists and opposition groups said on Wednesday that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad had killed at least 160 defecting soldiers, civilians and anti-government activists over the past three days in northwestern Syria.
If confirmed, the killings would constitute one of the worst spasms of violence in the nine-month-old uprising.
Word of the killings, which the activists and opposition groups said had taken place near the city of Idlib near the Turkish border, was reported a day before observers from the Arab League are to visit Syria for the first time to monitor pledges by Mr. al-Assad’s government to withdraw its troops from besieged areas.
Some activists said the President’s forces had intensified a campaign of deadly violence and intimidation partly because the impending arrival of Arab League monitors may prevent such action in coming days.
“I fear the security forces may be trying to crush this thing before the monitors get in,” said Murhaf Jouejati, a member of the Syrian National Council, an opposition group.
The Syrian government, which has sought to characterize the anti-Assad uprising as a Western-backed insurrection by terrorist gangs and thugs, has not commented on reports of the killings. But the official Syrian Arab News Agency said on its website that Syrian authorities in the cities of Idlib, Homs and Daraa had “stormed dens of armed terrorist groups, arresting tens of wanted men who committed crimes of killing, attacked and sabotaged private and public properties.”
The agency said “a number of the terrorists have been killed and others wounded,” and that “big quantities of weapons, ammunitions, explosives and night goggles, in addition to modern communication sets, have been seized.”
It was impossible to corroborate the conflicting accounts because of restrictions on foreign press access in Syria, where, according to a United Nations estimate, more than 5,000 people have been killed since March. But in a statement, the secretary-general of the Arab League, Nabil al-Araby, suggested the reports by the opposition groups were credible, expressing concern about them and urging the Syrian government to “protect civilians.”
"Protesters" versus "terrorists and gangs"...the former to the people, the latter to President Assad and his forces.
Depending on how one defines the enemy, one determines the limits to which one will go to "oppose" that enemy.
If holding onto power, in a family-dominated regime, where multiple executions have been conducted by the father of the current president, in a different insurrection, is the name of the game, it will take more than economic sanctions to remove this dictator.
The Arab League is to visit today, to inspect the events from the ground, and the west is holding her breath that perhaps, just maybe, they might be able to talk some sense into the dictator's head.
Defections from both the army and the government itself have grown in number and frequency, as have the number and frequency of the attacks on the innocents, as the western news agencies report it.
And yet, Assad prohibits the entry of foreign journalists into "his" country, in another attempt to control the news that reaches the outside world, Barbara Walters being one prominent exception, with her ABC interview last week. Even in that interview, Assad denied any wrongdoing, characterizing the conflict as one of the terrorists' making and himself and the government as victims to their violence.
However, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time. Surely, this week it is time to end both the deceptions and the killings, and for Assad to step aside, into exile, in some friendly foreign territory, perhaps with an extradition agreement to bring him back for trial, as Egypt has done with Mubarak in another "show trial."
Are the hands of the UN tied from taking effective action, for example, with the insertion of ground troops, as observers, and potentially as separators between the combatants? With veto votes, are China and Russia holding the poeple of Syria hostage to their loyalty to the Syrian president?
Is this another file where geopolitics is impeding effective international intervention on behalf of the Syrian people, in the move to remove Assad? It looks a lot like that, from this corner of the world.
Is the world unwilling or unable to arrest Assad for crimes against humanity, something everyone everywhere seems to agree his government is guilty of committing? Perhaps the world needs a strike force that could enter Syria, arrest the dictator, remove him from the country, and bring this atrocity to an end. Of course, that sounds like a naive and simplistic and even silly recommendation. However, there are times for the removal of a dictator, such as was the case in Entebbe, Uganda, when Idi Amin had to be removed. In that instance, the Israeli commado unit was deployed, and successfully removed the monster. Is this another case similar to that one?