Two suicide bombs outside of government security locations in Damascus killed 40 civilians and soldiers and wounded 100 according to Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad — as reported by the government’s Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).
The attacks have come after one of the most violent weeks since the beginning of the Syrian regime’s crackdown on uprisings nearly ten months ago, and was the first such assault seen in the capital of Damascus.
Iraqi political leaders canceled crisis talks scheduled for today and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki threatened to end power sharing in the government after Baghdad saw a series of violent blasts.
Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin reported that: “The capital has been relatively quiet. If the government is trying to say this is the work of protesters or even al Qaeda sympathizers, the attack is in the heart of the capital and that makes the government look very vulnerable.”
Meanwhile, the British-based advocacy group, Avaaz, reported it has evidence that the death toll since the beginning of the government crackdown has reached 6,237civilians and soldiers, which includes 917 government forces, 400 children, and617 people whose deaths were a result of torture.
Opposition activists claim the government staged the attacks as part of a scheme to convince the Arab League delegation that arrived in Damascus on Thursday that there is no government crackdown, but that violence in the country has been the work of “armed terrorist gangs.”
I was asked by journalists today what I thought about the notion that the Syrian government planned the car bombs to provide a pretext for their increasingly violent crackdown on the opposition. It reminds me of the notion that Washington was behind the World Trade Center bombing to provide a pretext for invading Iraq. I don’t give either much credibility. Both fit a rather perverse “qui bono,” or “who benefits” text, but I shouldn’t think that either are likely. I am only surprised that we haven’t seen the use of suicide bombing sooner.
The context of the bombings are the growing frustration of the opposition. The Assad regime remains strong compared to opposition forces. The external opposition leaders – the NSC – do not have a strategy for bringing down the regime that is realistic. Following this week’s Tunis meeting, the SNC demanded immediate foreign intervention to protect the Syrian people and stop the regime. At the same time it demanded that opposition groups within the country forgo militarization. The SNC snubbed the Free Syrian Army which has been trying to put together a military option. There is no likelihood that Western powers will intervene in Syria anytime soon. As the death-rate rises, opposition frustrations are also rising, increasing the probability that radical groups will begin to carry out suicide operations in an attempt to break the stalemate.
Law and order are also breaking down in Syria, which means that we should expect the spread of radical groups. The Syrian state, being one of the most intrusive and repressive in the Middle East, was able to thwart radical groups. As its capabilities decline, so will its ability to keep such groups from penetrating Syrian society. But the real reason for such bombings is the desperate political situation. Until Syria produces an ability to resolve its conflicts by political means, the chances are that the daily diet of suicide bombings that have become a part of political life in Iraq, will also become common in Syria.