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Despite observers, Syria’s Assad hikes crackdown

December 23, 2011 • World News


This image made from amateur video and made available by Shaam News Network Thursday Dec. 22, 2011, purports to show smoke clouds after heavy shelling in Homs, Syria. Fresh raids and gunfire by government forces on Thursday killed at least 19 people, most of them in the central city of Homs and northern Idlib province, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via APTN) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CANNOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE CONTENT, DATE, LOCATION OR AUTHENTICITY OF THIS MATERIAL. TV OUT

BEIRUT (AP) — Bashar Assad’s regime would appear to be setting itself on a collision course: It let in outside observers for the first time Thursday to monitor his commitment to halting the crackdown on dissent, even as his security forces unleashed a fiercer onslaught this week, killing more than 200 in two days.

But the Syrian president and his inner circle are veterans at playing for time, maneuvering and denying realities on the ground, and they seem confident they can deflect pressure from Arab neighbors without easing their campaign to crush the uprising.

As an advance team for the Arab League observers flew into Damascus on Thursday, activists said the regime was already acting to prevent the mission from seeing protesters arrested in the crackdown, which is supposed to be part of its mandate. Thousands of prisoners have been moved into military facilities, which are off limits to the monitors, two dissidents said, citing reports from sources on the ground.

By allowing the observers in, Syria has avoided a worse scenario for the time being, defusing Arab League threats to ask the U.N. Security Council for action against Damascus.

The strategy, opponents and outside observers say, is to keep international pressure at bay for as long as possible while the regime tries to snuff out the uprising. Activists said given the high death toll of the past few days, the Syrian government appears to be furiously trying to control the situation on the ground Login to read more

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