The sectarian nature of the end-game is becoming ever more brutal and naked. The massacres at Houla and Mazraat al Kabir reveal the sectarian logic of the regime stripped down to its elemental barbarity. Bashar has nothing left but fear. Hafiz al-Assad build his state on traditional loyalties — family, village, tribe and sect — but he was scrupulous about building alliances to every segment of Syrian society. He exploited the anxiety of age-old historic grievances and religious distrust, but he was vigilant about keeping the hair of Muawiyya extended to all. With one hand he held the gun, but with the other he offered a carrot. Bashar has lost the ability to offer carrots. He has no future to promise, only the gun. The regime is left with only the ugliness and inadequacy of sectarian logic.
The revolutionary forces and the insurgency are rapidly become stronger according to this Wash Post article. They are getting better weapons, gaining experience, finding more support from external funders. Most importantly, however, Syrians have abandoned the regime in spirit, even if they have yet to defect in body. Sunni Syrians continue to go to work and turn up in their offices in the morning, but they hate the Assad regime in their hearts. Assad’s army is being taken over by shabiha and security forces manned by Alawites. The massacres leave no doubt about that. The Shabiha seem able to call in artillery bombardments before sweeping in. They call themselves “Amn al-Assad,” Assad’s Security.
If you can withstand watching brutality, this 16 minute video taken by one of Assad’s security men on an operation in Hammameh outside Idlib, optimizes what is happening in the massacres that are now becoming a daily feature of this struggle. The security men kill 13 local fighters in Hammameh. When the killing is finished and the adrenaline is still pumping through the fighters’ veins, they do what one so often sees in these sorts of videos: the soldiers dehumanize and mock the dead, presumably to reassure themselves that they have done the right thing. They cursing them and pick out the “guilty.” One soldier places his foot on the head of one of the corpses and speaks into the camera saying, “This one is the “mundess,” or interloper. We hear another say, “He is from Turkey.” The soldier speaks to the dead body and taunts him, asking, “What do you think of `Arour now?” `Arour is the Sunni Syrian Imam who appears regularly on Saudi TV to excoriate Alawites. He is most famous for saying that Alawite supporters of Assad will be ground into hamburger meat and fed to the dogs. Opposition demonstrators frequently chanted `Arour’s name, underlining the communal nature of this struggle. The soldiers drag the bodies into a house, presumably to hide them and perhaps to set them on fire, but we do not see that part. The soldiers call out to each other, cursing the dead and joking in what seems like a nervous effort to establish comradery and group affirmation for their grisly deed. They repeatedly intone “hayy Amn al-Assad,” or “Long live Assad’s Security.” They use each others names and photograph each others faces in an obvious sense of invincibility. One can only presume that when the Assad regime falls, as it must, they will become the hunted.
The revolution remains largely leaderless, which in some ways is its strength. For every opponent of the regime killed, several more pop up to take his place. The regime has been sowing dragon’s teeth. The revolution is popping up everywhere now. The heart of Damascus is now involved. When the merchants of Hamadiya – the main souq – go on strike, you know you have lost the conscience and heart of Damascus. The Sunni bourgeoisie has now turned on the regime.
The opposition is a long way from producing the sort of coordination and command that can march on the Presidential Palace, but today, one can imagine the day when it will summon the strength to do it. Alawites cannot rule Syria alone.