If you want to know what the prelude to a genuinely bloody butcher shop of a civil war looks like, it’s every area turning into a battlefield between hostile militias. Qatar and Turkey have already done it for the Sunnis of Syria. Now Iran is about to do it for the Alawites. And that means the killing has just begun.
Yes the “official word” from anonymous sources in Turkey and Saudi Arabia (both backers of the Sunni rebels) is that Assad is about to run away or has already run away. And for all we know, maybe he’s broadcasting from a phone booth in downtown Tehran, but this is a religious war and both populations have too much invested in this to stop.
President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has put together a new paramilitary force of men and women, some trained by key ally Iran, to fight what is now becoming a guerrilla war, a watchdog said Monday.
The force, dubbed the National Defence Army, gathers together existing popular committees of pro-regime civilian fighters under a new, better-trained and armed hierarchy, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The popular committees were originally formed to protect pro-regime neighbourhoods from rebels.
“The (regular) army is not trained to fight a guerrilla war, so the regime has resorted to creating the National Defence Army,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
Most of the new fighters are members or supporters of the ruling Baath party, said Abdel Rahman. “They include men and women, and members of all the sects.”
Hezbollah and the usual militias so far have not proven to be a match for the rebels, but that may change. Even if it doesn’t, the conflict will get bloodier and the stage is now set for a national militia whose members can survive the fall of Damascus and retreat with the government or stay behind and carry out acts of terrorism. That means even if Assad flies away next Thursday, Syria will go on being bloody for some time afterward.