In a violent offensive that began last week in the Syrian city of Hama, Syria’s government continues to deploy military forces against civilians who want to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Soldiers and tanks have now advanced on the eastern town of Deir al-Zour near the Iraq border where the black arms market threatens to further destabilize the standoff in Syria. Though foreign journalists have been banned from Syria, advocacy groups estimate that scores have been killed by government forces in Deir al-Zour.
What’s the Big Idea?
Regional and world powers have been slow to condemn Syria because of the regime’s unique position in the Middle East. The close ties it has with Iran as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah makes it somewhat dangerous to criticize, but the tide may be turning. The U.N. Security Council and Middle Eastern countries are calling on the Assad regime to make genuine political reforms while the U.S. and European Union are contemplating a boycott on Syrian oil. Some limited defections from the Syrian military have been reported.