Every day things are getting worse in Syria. Today the Syrian regime started what looks like an all-out assault on the key city of Homs, reportedly killing at least 55 people. The attack took place as the UN Security Council prepares to vote on a draft resolution backing an Arab call for President Bashar al-Assad to give up power.
The problem has been the lack of information about events on the ground. Though the Syrian government has failed to quell the uprising, it has succeeded in limiting access to information by the outside world. So a lot remains unknown, unreported or clouded in pro-regime propaganda.
But speaking to people in Syria, some things appear clear. First, there is now a guerrilla war of popular resistance against the Syrian regime. The idea of a ‘peaceful revolution’ is over. Second, there is still no coherent rebel leadership — no Syrian Free Army — but the resistance probably does have the potential to develop a locally-based leadership, as happened in eastern Libya. Until then, they are adopting Taliban-style tactics: working in small, self-supporting groups and using stolen and bartered weapons and IEDs to protect themselves against the regime’s onslaught. But they are still no match for the Syrian regime.
Finally, it seems inevitable — especially after the attack on Homs today — that a Syrian Srebrenica, a large scale government-led massacre, will happen. It seems only to be a matter of time. Once it does, the reluctance of the West — and even of Russia — to intervene will look increasingly unsustainable. David Cameron has wisely viewed Libya and Syria as different cases, requiring different responses. But the debate about intervention — or at least military aid to the rebels — will heat up again and the Prime Minister, who at heart is a sort of pragmatic interventionist, will be forced to review his Syria policy.
P.S. The estimate for the number of people killed in Homs has been revised down from earlier reports of at least 200.
P.P.S. The death toll is still unclear — the only figures are from Syrian opposition groups. The ‘Local Coordination Committees’ now says 181 were killed in Homs, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 217.