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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Vers une militarisation des révoltes?

by Hassane Zerrouky

Syria: Dim Prospects for the Democratic Opposition As More and More Rebels Take Up Arms

Armed resistance spreading from Rastan, north of Damascus, in the last few days, is threatening to dash all hopes of a negotiated solution.

Translated Saturday 15 October 2011, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Bill Scoble

Will Rastan, a 40,000-strong community a hundred and ten miles north of Damascus, be the starting point of the militarization of rebellion against Bachar Al Assad’s regime? The town was the scene of tough fighting between several hundred loyalist soldiers supported by 250 tanks and fighter planes and about as many or even a thousand army deserters, some of them commissioned officers. The confrontation lasted nearly four days, and dozens were killed, including many civilians...

The town was pounded, dozens of houses destroyed or seriously damaged. Syrian authorities obviously spared no means to overcome those “deserters”. Rastan has been under the army’s control since yesterday. According to Sana, the official news agency, “peace and security” are back. The army and the police scour the region for “traitors”. The traitors themselves, members of the “free officers’ movement” published a communiqué in which they announced their retreat from the town “so as to better carry on the fight for freedom”.

There is every likelihood that what Syrian democrats have been fearing, namely the radicalization of protest notably through the mobilization of armed bands, is now taking place. From Rastan the fighting spread to Hama where eleven were killed during the week-end, 6 of them army men. Arrests are still going on in Homs, where 63-year-old opponent Mansour Atassi, one of the leaders of the National Committee for Democratic Chance, a coalition of Marxist and Arab Nationalist (Nasserian) Leftist parties, was thrown into prison. In addition, four people were murdered in Damascus by a “terrorist” group, official sources say. Acts of sabotage and violent targeted attempts are multiplying. Which seems to confirm that Sunni radical Islamic groups whose links with the Gulf monarchies are an open secret have gone into action. The brutality of the repression (with more than 2,700 killed and thousands wounded) together with the persistent political deadlock objectively encouraged the radicalization of rebellion.

The confrontation between the government and an armed opposition meets the wishes of the régime but also of radical Islamic groups. It is likely to dash the prospect of any negotiated political solution to the conflict. This potentially dreadful spiral might well lead to dangerous and uncontrollable developments for Syria, which democrats and liberals are trying to ward off.

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