Of all the countries involved in the Arab Spring uprisings Syria is the most important at so many levels.
- They have the most repressed population with the least human rights.
- They work as proxies for Iran at many levels in a whole series of conflicts, both anti Israel and anti Sunni. (The al-Assads are Alawite Moslems, a branch of Shia, whilst three quarters of the population of Syria are Sunni).
- Strategically they are at an axis of immense importance.
- They have a nuclear bomb programme, presumably under Iranian guidance.
- They control another state, Lebanon.
Events this week have escalated considerably. Factions of the government security apparatus have mutinied against what other factions are doing to the population. The deaths in one resultant shoot out were blamed, by the government, on peaceful protesters, which their twisted logic thinks gives them the remit to shoot from helicopters into unarmed crowds of their own people. Even America is getting increasingly strident in condeming what is going on.
In the absence of journalists these videos are the only source of information about events inside the country. They show a very nasty and brutal regime with its back against the wall lashing out against innocent civilians.
The Arab Spring has had a mixed success. Egypt and Tunisia made the transition quickly. In Libya Gaddafi is just about to fall and transition policies are in place. In Bahrain the brutal Sunni ruling family have suppressed the peaceful and unarmed Shia majority with the ruthless use of violence and the usual secret police methods. In Yemen there is a tribal civil war kicking off. But Syria is a whole different ball game, if the al-Assad hereditary dictatorship is replaced by anything that has more respect of human rights then the domino effect could move on to more countries. Even Saudi Arabia would not be immune from the forces of reform.