North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Monday, August 1, 2011

Syrian government crushes Hama (again) as Ramadan begins

In a poignant statement of repression on the eve of Ramadan - the Muslim holy month - the Syrian government on Sunday swept into Hama, a major city of 800,000, killing dozens of protestors.

Hama, with a population of 800,000, was slow to join the protests at the beginning of the year, but has now taken on the dubious mantle of leadership in challenging Bashar Assad's regime.

Click on picture for full image
Massive demonstration on Friday (day of prayer), July 29, shows extent of Assad's problem.

From the BBC, "Activists say about 130 people died across the country on Sunday, making it one of the bloodiest days since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in mid-March. ... Hama still seems to be largely under the control of its own inhabitants rather than the government. ...Tanks and troops which had tried to take control of the city on Sunday, withdrew to the outskirts overnight but now seem to be pushing ahead again ..."

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Assad's tanks in Hama

Hama, of course, is the same city where in 1982, then-President Hafez al-Assad, father of today's Bashar Assad, crushed a different rebellion, killing some 30,000 citizens, members of the Muslim Brotherhood. There was no world reaction at that time, and there seems little once again.

Smoke rises from the city

There is the obligatory international condemnation to be sure, with Germany and Italy calling for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council, and one is apparently scheduled for today. Previously, security council members such as Russia and China have opposed resolutions condemning Damascus. However, Russia today called for an end to "repressions" in Syria. "The use of force against both peaceful civilians and representatives of state structures is unacceptable and should be stopped immediately," the foreign ministry said in a statement. Analysts say it is Moscow's strongest criticism yet of President Assad.

Earlier, US President Barack Obama said he was "appalled" by the Syrian government's use of brutality. EU foreign policy chief urged the UN Security Council to take a "clear stand on the need to end the violence". Even Turkey, who has had to change its relationship with Syria the most over the past 6 months, is continuing to strengthen its criticism.

Nevertheless, it is hard to see how the current trajectory of world condemnation and Syria's continuing actions (aided and supported by Hezbollah in Lebanon and by Iran) will lead to a different outcome soon. Thousands of Syrian's are "missing" and various centers of opposition are filled with courageous yet fearful families and individuals.

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