The Assad family is winning the Battle of Ramadan — for what that is worth. Brute force massively but not unintelligently applied has kept protesters at bay and prevented the consolidation of an unstoppable national movement for change. The cost is high: every day more countries turn their backs on the regime.It isn’t over yet. Protestors are still on the streets, tens of thousands all over the country poured into the streets after Friday prayers. But the soldiers keep shooting; until they turn their rifles the other way and start shooting their commanders (or until the commanders order the tanks to turn around and shell the palace), the Assads and their allies can cling to power. Early reports from the LA Times:
13 people [were killed] Friday as protests erupted countrywide despite the growing security crackdown, according to accounts from witnesses and activists. Among the dead were some killed in the eastern town of Dair Alzour by security forces who opened fire when worshippers emerged from Friday prayers.
The eastern town of Dair Alzour, or Deir az-Zour, could prove to be a powder keg. Separated from Damascus by a wide desert, its numerous and powerful tribes are spread over the porous border with Iraq. Syrian activists note with some trepidation that
Tribal kinsmen on the Iraqi side ‘have vowed to step in and back their brethren in Syria if they come under attack. Until now this is rhetoric, [but a] wide-scale military assault on Deir al-Zor … would change those calculations.’
Damascus and Aleppo are still relatively quiet.Like the contest in Libya, where the regime held on during the first flush of revolutionary fervor before settling down to a long war of attrition, the Syrian standoff could continue for some time. And as in Libya, the political future of Syria likely now depends on whether outside forces are willing and able to help an internal opposition which cannot break its chains on its own.Sometimes these matters can be settled with gold: worried about possible criminal trials in their futures, there are members of the inner circle who might be induced to change sides. One hopes the Saudis and perhaps a few more are working the phones.