Protests in Syria have spread to the campus of Damascus University. For the first time I can clearly visualize just where events are happening. One student was reportedly killed in the protest.
Elsewhere, military forces reportedly moved into the Mediterranean coastal city of Baniyas, with several protesters and security forces being killed in protests. The government is now reportedly expelling foreign media and apparently cutting internet service intermittently.
What happens now? Assad has promised reforms, but is moving slowly on them. But if he follows through, does he just signal that he’s no longer in full control and further embolden protesters? Does he respond by escalating the violent reaction to the protesters? That seems to be the line he’s taking now. That would have been more disheartening to protesters had they not already seen other Arabic leaders falling. The Syrian military is made up of poorly trained conscripts in for 18 month stints, with an officer corps that is reportedly corrupt and has benefited financially from both legal and illegal business activities. The officers have reason to fight the protesters, but do the conscripts? Still, Ian Bremmer thinks Assad may have more supporters than the media is reporting. Perhaps he knows, but my impression is that his support is only among the elites, who are by definition a small proportion of the population.
Meanwhile, Patrick Seale discusses the effects on regional alliances if the Assad regime falls or is weakened, with some interesting and significant observations.