The revolt in Syria has taken another turn—with growing armed resistance to the forces of government-backed repression.
Some 15,000 soldiers are said to have defected to form the Free Syrian Army.
The insurgency is ambushing security forces and attempting to defend neighbourhoods in increasingly bloody confrontations.
This is creating growing unease among both Syria’s neighbours and the imperial powers.
But the revolt is torn between those who want to continue the peaceful demonstrations, and cities such as Homs and Hama where this is no longer an option.
The part of the Syrian opposition that the Arab League officially recognises is now demanding international protection in the form of a “no fly zone”. This is despite objections from the local coordination committees—the grassroots organisations behind the protests.
With its grip on power looking increasingly shaky, Bashar al-Assad’s regime has unleashed sectarian death squads.
The revolution is in danger of being hijacked—not just by the West, but by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Turkey, once a key ally of Syria, wants to set up a buffer zone along its border. Saudi money is said to be pouring into the official opposition. The Jordanian king, who recently sent in his forces to crush domestic opposition, has called for Assad to step down.
The Arab League, along with Syria’s key allies, is desperate for the regime to implement reforms.
Unable to do this, Assad is stoking tensions that threaten to plunge Syria into a sectarian civil war. Many now fear that the original aspirations of the revolution are being subsumed by regional and imperialist interests.
Regional interests are hostile to the Arab Spring, while imperialist ones want to isolate the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance movements that are backed by Syria.
This popular revolution has confounded all expectations.
The bravery and persistence of the protests has shows that this revolution is far from over.
The keys to its success are the cities of Aleppo and the capital Damascus. They have yet to move in sufficient numbers to tip the balance against the regime.