Is Syrian Regime Preparing a Massacre of Homs?

Reports that the Syrian military is bringing up armor and heavy weapons to Homs has sparked fears that the regime intends to invade the city, as happened in 1982 when the military brutally went into nearby Hama to crush a Muslim fundamentalist revolt. Some 10,000 or more persons were killed in that action, most of them non-combatants, and there are fears of a similar massacre at Homs today.

About 12 of the some 40 civilian demonstrators who were killed by Syrian security forces on Friday were in Homs, and another 5 were in nearby Hama. Some of those killed on Friday were children.

Human Rights Watch released a big report on crimes against humanity in recent months by the regime against people in Homs.

Aljazeera English has a video report:

The Arab League is still attempting to mediate a compromise to end the crisis. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Alaraby is attempting to convince the Iraqi government to pressure Syria to implement the Arab League plan. (Iraq imports a lot of food from Syria and has not joined in the organization’s economic boycott of Syria, and Shiite-dominated Baghdad has tilted toward the government of President Bashar al-Assad rather than toward his Sunni Arab critics.

The Arab League plan has been endorsed by the Russian Federation, though Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that the plan should not be presented as an ultimatum.

In contrast, Some Arab League member states may be increasingly frustrated and impatient with Damascus, as the death toll mounts toward 4,000 dead (about a fourth of them government security men). Former Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Turki al-Faisal, warned Friday that the Arab League would not allow this “massacre” to continue indefinitely.

Turkey has raised its customs charges on incoming Syrian goods to 30%, and warned Friday that the Baath regime should not create the kind of disorder that dives large numbers of Syrians to take shelter in Turkey.

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10 Responses

  1. I recall a dispute over water rights which Turkey resolved by massing its army on the Syrian border. Perhaps that might focus minds in Syria now?

    • Turkey unenthusiastically followed NATO into Libya, because they saw it as their duty to be loyal to their allies.

      If they call on their allies this time, I don’t see how the western powers can say no.

  2. I’ve only seen one video of a room with two shell-holes, not very big, probably 20-30 mm cannon.

    Of course this means that in fact the army is only using light weapons on the opposition. One of my Syrian students confirmed it to me that it is the practise.

    Of course the opposition claims they are being shelled by artillery, but it is not the case.

    It’s one reason why the army has not won. If it had been old Hafez, he would have used bombs and artillery without hesitation.In fact Bashshar is being too nice to win, but not getting any media benefit. I am sure what a colleague said to me yesterday is right: to do a Hama today would provoke a foreign intervention.

  3. It seems to me that Assad feels he has no choice but to use whatever repression is necessary to save his neck. He saw what has happened to Mubarak and Qaddafi. If this regime is overthrown, the Alawites who have dominated the regime for over 40 years, along with the support of minority Christians, have good reason to fear a massive purge by a majority-supported regime which would have strong Sunni backing. To me, the whole question of regime survival depends on whether the security forces can hold together. We still haven’t seen mass protests in Damascus and Aleppo against the regime. What do you think, Prof. Cole?

    • Of course al-Assad has a choice! He could stop shooting demonstrators and hold free elections. That is the way you get a soft landing for Alawites. The path he is on likely ends in tragedy for everyone.

      • I am afraid I don’t understand what a “soft-landing” for the Alawites will be. I referred to Mubarak’s fate. He is on trial, possibly for his life, if they want to charge him with “human rights abuse”. The Alawite regime is hated by large parts of Syrian society. We recall the attacks violent attacks that were carried out against the regime before the Hama repression which seemed to put an end to it in the 1980’s. Now, I am not defending Assad, I am just trying to view the situation from his point of view-how is it that he can agree to simply give up power and what his fate and the fate of those who supported his repressive regime all these years will be if he does. What guarantees are there that there will be a “soft-landing” if he does. I don’t believe he thinks there is any chance for it. Even should some old ally of his offer him asylum if he should give up power, there is still all those relatives and other close associates who could face the wrath of those they oppressed for so long. In Iran, once the Shah left the country, there was a mass purge of the military and the elements that supported his regime which included large-scale executions. It seems to me that Assad has concluded that he has to tough it out or lose his head. It’s that simple.

      • In your opinion, Professor, is Assad a gangster who is only in it for himself, or someone who feels a genuine responsibility as a leader of the Alawites?

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