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Syria Reports 120 Military Killed in Jisr al-Shagour, Promises Decisive Response. More Economic Woes – Analysis

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Syria is slipping toward civil war. The announcement today that 120 Syrian officers have been killed in Jisr al-Shughour indicates how dire the contest between the opposition and government forces has become. This weekend over 100 Syrians were killed by government troops.

None of the reporters I spoke to today believe Syrian reports of a massacre. The LA Times puts the word in quotation marks. Other reporters stated to me that the government has offered neither proof nor pictures of killings in Jisr al-Shaghour.

Syria
Syria

Opposition leaders argue that the claim is being manufactured by the government in order to justify escalating security measures. Some claim that security forces are killing military deserters.

The NYTimes quotes one resident:

a 28-year-old who gave his name only as Omar, said clashes continued on Monday between “tens of soldiers” who had defected to defend the town, on one side, and members of military intelligence and plainclothes security agents on the other.

Regardless of the truth, which will emerge soon enough, the government has met with no success in quelling the revolt despite an escalating death rate and an ever more ruthless crack down.

CNN reports, however that the Muslim Brotherhood is getting armed and going on the offensive:

An opposition member who lives outside Syria but has sources inside the country who have proved reliable in the past said the clashes over the past three days in Jisr Al-Shugur, Khan Shaykhun and surrounding villages were between members and supporters of the Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood and the Syrian security forces.

He said that 90 security members and 23 opposition members were killed Monday. In addition, nine tanks were destroyed and two helicopters were downed, he said.

He said the weapons had been taken into the country from Turkey, whose border is about 20 kilometers away. The wounded, he added, were being taken to Turkey for treatment.

The man, who has asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal, said Muslim Brotherhood supporters have long opposed the Syrian regime and were taking advantage of the uprising to settle their score. He further expressed concern that the brotherhood could hijack the peaceful secular uprising.

Defections: I have refrained from posting the grisly videos that show the horrors of what is going on in Syria. But this video from a lieutenant who has defected and tells what happened in Daraa is proof of a defection. Here is another story from a soldier from Tel Kalakh. This is important because it could catch on. In all likelihood, there will be growing defections as the fighting gets worse. The army could possible split along sectarian lines if things get much worse. The Syrian government will be doing all it can to make sure that no Syrian territory falls out of its control. This would provide the opposition with a “Bengazi” which would allow the formation of a resistance base and construction of an opposition army. It would also provide defecting military elements with a safe haven to which they could flee and find protection. As it is today, defectors must go into hiding or go abroad in order to avoid arrest or worse.

The Interior Minister has promised a swift and stern crackdown. Ibrahim Shaar, announced:

“We will deal with the attacks very firmly and according to the law, and we will not go quite on any attack that targets the security of the country and its citizens.” (Syria News)

On TV, he said,

“The armed attacks targeted public and private buildings in various regions and lately there were similar attacks in Jisr Al-Shugur,” Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar said in a short statement on state television. “The state will deal with sternness and force within the law and we will not remain silent when it comes to any armed attack.”

Ex-V.P. Abdalhalim Khaddam accused the Antalya opposition leaders, who met last weekend and who refused to permit him to attend, of being too soft and naive. “What you have to have is a complete transformation of the government,” he said. They concentrated on the personalities and not the regime and government structures. If the opposition talks about keeping V.P Sharaa as an interim head of government, they are naive and missing the real picture, he insisted.

The Gay Girl in Damascus – A very talented and brave Syrian blogger, Amina Abdallah, has been detained without notification or due process by the Syrian security forces. I pushed her wonderful blog about a month ago, here.

Economy

The economic situation continues to deteriorate in Syria. Almost all hotels in Aleppo are closed, according to one informant. The government is not allowing the owners to officially close them before proving that they are in financial distress. But that is surely a technicality that can only delay the firing of hundreds of hotel employees. Owners can simply not afford to keep them on without paying guests.

Public Sector banks are asking people to pay the principle payments of their loans. People are not paying at all. It would seem that people are testing the government systems. al-Iqtisadi reports (in Arabic) that

“The government will soon issued a decree that will exempt between 4,000 5,000 industrialists who have received loans and banking benefits and who have not paid their loan payments for two cycles. They will reschedule their debt so that the bank will forgo the accumulated interest due on the loan.”

The government is doing this is because if a borrower defaults for two loan payments, one is obliged by law to write off the loan as in default. This is why the need to reschedule. It allows the Syrian accountants to keep the loans on the books and hide the default. What are the liabilities of the consolidated balance sheet of the public sector, including the public banks? We do not know.

Syria Report writes:

Syria’s Unrest Impacts Economy Across All Sectors: The unrest gripping Syria has taken its toll on the economy and GDP growth is expected to be well in the red this year.

Syria Comment - Joshua Landis

Syria Comment - Joshua Landis

Joshua Landis maintains Syria Comment and teaches modern Middle Eastern history and politics and writes on Syria and its surrounding countries. He writes “Syria Comment,” a daily newsletter on Syrian politics that attracts some 3,000 readers a day. It is widely read by officials in Washington, Europe and Syria. Dr. Landis regularly travels to Washington DC to consult with the State Department and other government agencies. He is a frequent analyst on TV and radio.

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