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Policy Analysis 18 June, 2012

The Recent Bombings in Syria: Do they change reality on the ground?

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The Unit for Political Studies

The Unit for Political Studies is the Center’s department dedicated to the study of the region’s most pressing current affairs. An integral and vital part of the ACRPS’ activities, it offers academically rigorous analysis on issues that are relevant and useful to the public, academics and policy-makers of the Arab region and beyond. The Unit for Policy Studies draws on the collaborative efforts of a number of scholars based within and outside the ACRPS. It produces three of the Center’s publication series: Situation Assessment, Policy Analysis, and Case Analysis reports. 


Introduction

The increased frequency of explosions in Syria at the moment raises a number of questions about the extent to which the shape of the Syrian revolution is entering a new phase characterized by emerging indicators, which show the transformation of a peaceful, demand-driven movement to more violent forms, and suicide bombing may indeed become a one of these forms strongly associated with this revolution. Is this new phenomenon an indication of the coming period, which will come to be characterized by al-Qaeda-style bomb attacks, matching the Syrian regime's own justifications for quelling the protest movements from the beginning? What relationship does this phenomenon have with another feature of the Syrian revolution, that of becoming armed in self-defense? Is this new trend an extension of the taking up of arms, or is it something new and structurally different from it? Or is it rather a passing fad, a marginal by-product associated with the revolution's evolution?

The first signs of an armed conflict began to appear in Syria during the first months of the protest movement, and at the time, the crude weapons used reflected the traditional, clan-based social structures from which it emerged. This feature of armed rebellion took form in a context of simple and basic self-defense, legalized by defense and protection in the civil sense. It appeared in multiple guises following the storming of the Al-Omari Mosque in the southern town of Daraa on March 23, 2011. The lack of respect for the mosque's sanctity on the part of the state's security apparatus who attacked it, left Syrian public opinion in a state of shock, driving wide swathes of the Syrian youth to take up arms in a bid to fend off repeated security services' attacks: the aim was to avenge the measures to humiliate the Syrian people and violate their pride, all carried out by the regime's forces or by the militia employed by the regime in an organized, systematic way.

This simple, self-defense-based form was the main feature of the armed conflict during the first stage of the Syrian revolutions in a variety of areas, for example some of the neighborhoods of the city of Homs, and some of the villages, such as East Ghouta, Rif Dimashq (or countryside of Damascus), and the countryside near Hama and Idlib. Desertions from the state's military apparatus, by both commissioned officers and conscripts, also started at an early stage of the Syrian revolution.

However, a new form of armed mobilization began at the outset of 2012, with novel, unfamiliar moves that were totally unrelated to previous modes of arming seen before in Syria. Mysterious explosions and car bombs set off in a number of Syrian cities typified this, though these hit Aleppo and Damascus particularly hard. This new reality made it compelling to answer a number of fundamental questions about how these explosions would impact the Syrian revolution.

This paper shall thus attempt to understand the indicators of this new period, attempting to use induction to reach conclusions about the path of arming or "militarization" of the Syrian revolution, or the "armed struggle," as well as other auxiliary forms of violence associated with the revolution. The paper will also try to provide an understanding of the social and political implications of these violent forms, both in the present and future Syria. Additionally, the author looks at how these repercussions will impact the democratic transformation that has been the rallying call and ultimate objective of the Syrian revolution. The Syrian regime has faced this revolution with the systematic use of security and military repression as the state's only gambit and final option for dealing with the popular uprising. This reality cannot be ignored when examining the Syrian situation because it is the primary catalyst for the increasingly violent forms being taken by the Syrian revolution.