The Assad regime turned to those "foot soldiers" after numerous incidents proved that the Syrian Army would not shoot unarmed civilians, and would actually point their guns on officials from the regime.
There are many reports of soldiers executed by security agents accompanying army divisions for not shooting at protestors, and other reports of soldiers joining the protestors and shooting security agents. There was even one incident in which a soldier reportedly shot Jameel al-Assad, one of the President’s cousins and head of one of the regime’s fifteen security agencies, for ordering brutal attacks against unarmed civilians.
Thus, with its inability to trust the regular army, the regime had been shuffling the same units between Dera, Latakia, Banias, and Hums killing thousands and arresting thousands more, while trying to cause discord between the army and the people.
| Map locating clashes between security forces and protesters, demonstrations and refugee movement out of Syria. AFP Graphic
Note that the real figures of killed protestors are a lot more than a thousand and likley total several thousands, while the numbers of missing are much more. The reason is the fact that the published numbers come from a few activists who require full names to ascertain causalities.
In real life though, the numbers of dead are so immense that mass graves had to be dug for them in Dera.
Fire trucks had to be used in Latakia to clean the blood off the streets, while the numbers of missing are so large that the detained are stored in private warehouses rented by the regime in Hums, and grain silos in Dera.
Thousands might be dead and missing, but there are millions more who are against the regime. More importantly, most low-rank soldiers oppose the Assad regime as they suffer physically and psychologically under the mandatory army recruitment system. When the Assad regime will have to utilize them to suppress protests in more ‘critical’ areas such as Deir Ez-Zur, Hama, Hasakeh, Ar-Raqqa, and Idlib, more defections and dissentions will surface amongst the army ranks, such as that by the Fifth Division commander and a handful of his soldiers who managed to incur major damage in the ranks of the Fourth division in Dera before being wiped out.
If the regime wishes to avoid such scenario it might only use its Fourth regiment, Republican Guard, Shabbiha, Baathis, and hired thugs, but they will eventually dwindle and collapse as the units will be worn out. They will suffer many causalities in their engagement with the populations of the cities of Deir Ez-Zur, Hama, Hasakeh, Ar-Raqqa, and Idlib in Ramadan, when each single day of the 28-days holy month of Muslims will be a Friday protest day.
This poses an opportunity that could be seized by foreign powers to support a ‘winning case’ as everybody is realizing the inevitability of the demise of the regime.
The inclusion of Bashar al-Assad in the newly-imposed sanctions by the U.S. and the EU is a positive development, yet more is needed at this crucial point. The support of the Assad regime needs to be dismantled piece by piece to avoid a bloodier scenario than the current.
The opposition needs support to organize and establish a communications network, inside Syria and outside, while the numbers of individuals sanctioned should be extensive, reaching all that pursue illicit ties with the regime, such as the top 70 businessmen that have amassed fortunes by utilizing their ties with the regime. The 70 include the industrialists from Aleppo, the industrial city of Syria, who are presenting their employees with a choice, to either work throughout the weekend holidays of Friday and Saturday, or to be sacked without reimbursement in a country that is suffering high rates of unemployment — unofficial reports put it at 40 percent, while official reports put it at 8.5 percent, less than that of the U.S. and the EU… imagine.
Western countries should not engage or acknowledge the legitimacy of authoritarian and autocratic regimes, as that will only increase their power against their people.
The past decades have shown that political and economic reforms that the U.S. and EU pushed their allies in the Middle East to pursue in hope of reaching true democracies were only cosmetic, devoid of power sharing, only enacted to allow authoritarian regimes to maintain their positions by awarding as little as possible to the people. The reform process in the Arab world is not meant to lead to a democracy but to more trade with the West and a bigger economy that would only benefit the regime figures; the traditional military and security elites who use their power to amass fortunes through government awarded business contracts.
Supporting authoritarian regimes’ reform not only costs the coffers of the U.S. and the EU billions at this time of global economic crisis, it also create anti-western sentiments by those who see Western support for their oppressive governments.
Further, the authoritarianism of the Assad regime and poor economic policies are creating social conditions that favor the growth of terrorism. Lack of democracy and economic opportunities among the young causes frustration that manifest itself in the form of radicalism.
The West could only expect more terrorist attacks from the continuation of the Assad regime — such as those sprouting in Iraq early June — whether via the regime itself while playing the regional stability card or through the radicals it creates.