A turning point for Syria protests?
Syrian Army defectors launched a fresh assault on a pro-government group yesterday. Some say their concentrated military action could be the turning point for the Syrian protest movement.
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Syrian Army defectors used rocket-propelled grenades to attack a pro-government youth group office in northwestern Syria yesterday, the latest in a string of bold offensives against the Syrian government, army, and security forces.
The day before the Free Syrian Army, as the defectors have dubbed themselves, attacked an intelligence base outside Damascus. Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told CNN that the strike on the intelligence base "reflects the growing sophistication of the Free Syrian Army and 'opens up a new era of the conflict'."
There is a growing consensus that Syria is moving toward a civil war, if it isn't already there. On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that the current situation is "very much like a civil war." Today, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu joined the chorus. "There is a risk of [the confrontations] transforming into civil war," he said, according to Radio Free Europe.
But in Washington, a senior Obama administration official said calling the violence in Syria a civil war "plays into the Syrian government's hands, that this is some terrorist movement against the government."
"And that's just not the case," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "This has been, from the inception, a peaceful movement."
The official said the violence is taking Syria down "a dangerous path," but added: "It's the Syrian regime's repression and killing of innocent civilians that has exacerbated the situation and led to this."
Max Fisher at The Atlantic writes that "The Syrian conflict still appears stacked enormously in favor of Assad holding on to power, but for the first time since violence began there in March, it looks possible – however unlikely – that protesters could actually succeed in bringing revolution to their country."