|—||JOSHUA LANDIS, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, on a speech in which President Bashar al-Assad of Syria defended a crackdown and sought to rally supporters.|
David Axe pays close attention to conflicts, so if you want to know about war, you should pay close attention to David Axe. He writes, “In July, the embattled regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad unleashed its jet fighters against the growing rebel forces of the Free Syrian Army, marking a major escalation of the bloody civil war. The rebels responded. With guns and, allegedly, Stinger shoulder-fired missiles acquired from the CIA, they sent some of Assad’s roughly 460 planes and copters tumbling in flames to the ground.” A a Danish architect and part-time aviation journalist has been mapping them. Read more here.
|—||Senior Syrian military officer Major Jihad Raslan, who has defected from Assad’s forces after witnessing the Houla massacre. He spoke to the Guardian. The full article is here. (via thepoliticalnotebook)|
“Bashar Stencil by El Teneen. Next to it, reads ‘The People Want the Downfall of the Regime’ words made famous in Tahrir. Sighted on July 25th, 2011. The graffiti has since been painted over.”
“If the Islamists and the Kurds enter the demonstrations, the regime will lose control,” [Ayman Abdel Nour, a Syrian writer and activist who was a childhood friend of Syrian presidentsaid. “The president is trying to delay the big explosion.”
Could Syria be on the brink of revolution?
It’s hard to say what directions the protests and Assad regime will take in the days and weeks ahead.
But if you’re fuzzy on the background of just what the ethnic, religious and sectarian situation in Syria looks like, Steven Cook from the Council on Foreign Relations offers a a helpful quick sketch. He writes:
“…the country manifests many of the same problems of two of its neighbors—Lebanon and Iraq—though perhaps not as pronounced. Although the overwhelming majority of Syrians are Arabs (90 percent), there are important ethnic minorities, notably Kurds and Druze. There are also splits along sectarian lines. The Assads are Alawis, which make up 12 percent of 22.5 million Syrians, Christians account for 10 percent, while Sunnis are an overwhelming 74 percent of the population. Smaller groups, including a few Jews and Yazidis, comprise the remaining four percent of Syrians. The breakdown is probably not as important as what these groups have at stake, especially the Alawis. The Assad era has been very good for the Alawis. As a result, they are unlikely to give up their privileged position in Syrian politics without much of a fight. This is not to say that the Alawis have excluded the Sunnis. There are many prominent Sunnis connected to the regime through politics and business. Still, if the political order began to crack under the weight of demands for change, you have to wonder how long before the majority runs from the minoritarian regime. This may be one reason why Bashar was so quick to use violence against the protestors in Daraa.”