When Syria's Bashar Al-Assad sent his tanks into the southern city of Dara'a this week, he was evidently hoping to definitively quash the six-week-old revolt against his rule. Instead, the apparently bloody crackdown — no reporters are allowed near, and most of the news is coming from unverified videos sent by protesters — has drawn international condemnation and led to the defection of 200 members of Assad's Baath party, several lawmakers, and according to reports, several military units. Did Assad's push to end the rebellion backfire?
If the army mutinies, Assad is sunk: Despite the massacre of civilians by "Syria's ruling crime family," the Assads, the uprising is still in full swing, says Ammar Abdulhamid in Al Jazeera. And if the "addicting reports of mutiny" this early in the uprising are true, then yes, "Assad's military gambit seems to be backfiring."
"Mutiny in the Syrian army?"
Assad will survive minor setbacks: Assad is clearly "banking on the loyalty of his armed forces and police," says The Economist. And that's a pretty safe bet. Even if a few units join the opposition, "a large-scale defection is unlikely." And while his governing coalition might splinter, Assad's crackdown has been met with near-silence from his Arab neighbors. He may have lost legitimacy, but he isn't losing the battle... yet.
"Could the Assad regime fall apart?"
Either way, he's botched the crackdown: Assad lacks his father's "deft touch in playing hardball and offering concessions at the appropriate times," says Rodger Shanahan in Australia's ABC News. And it could be that he "flicked the switch to repression" at the wrong time — "if the military fractures, then all bets will be off." But with such a fluid and high-stakes situation, it's pointless to second-guess Assad's decisions. We'll know the future when it happens.
"Syria's future still a guessing game"