|Source: University of Texas|
Their 55 pg. report, titled "The Lebanonization of Syria," portrays a state that is cracking apart along social and religious fault lines, to the dismay of a majority of the Syrian population that desires stability above all else. The report gives a good timeline of the 2011 uprising, detailing both the actions of the government security forces and the armed opposition, as well as the protest centers in Homs and Deraa. Their thesis is that violence by both sides is working in sync to radicalize the crisis. When the Syrian security forces were overly brutal at the beginning of the protests in March 2011, it sent the opposition to arms, and then then when Assad backed off, it only encouraged opposition fighters to become more violent. The report states that as early as March 18, three days after protests began:
Military weapons were spotted not only in Deraa, but also in Homs, Hama and in different towns near the Turkish border. However, for three months, demonstrations were mostly peaceful...after several weeks of revolt and repressions, many peaceful demonstrators were arrested, leaving the streets to the more radical elements. The population then observed the appearance of armed demonstraots with support from abroad...As of June 2011, the movement began to radicalize in most of the centers of protest and the activists began to demand the resignation of Bachar al-Assad and the end of the regime. According to many witness reports from among representatives of the domestic opposition and leaders of the religious communities, after the appearance of these armed activists in the summer of 2011, demonstrations were no longer peaceful and protesters were actively seeking direct confrontation with the security forces and started making use of their military hardware.The report also highlights the extensive anti-Assad propaganda being put out by Arab, Gulf-funded media (such as al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya), as well as U.S. and U.K. media, which omits facts on the ground, and in some cases even has faked video evidence. "The media coverage is overly one-sided and appears to fit the dominant geopolitical agenda, that of the American neoconservatives who have divided the Middle East between 'moderate Arab nations' (Egypt, Jordan and the oil-rich monarchies) and the 'forces of the axis of evil' (Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas)," the report states. In the words of Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III, a Christian leader in Damascus, "the position of the international press and foreign players is to act as if absolutely nothing true or good could come from the Damascus regime, and to make them responsible for every problem. This has made Syrian public opinion turn against Western countries and their journalists." Asma Kaftaro, the director of the Sunni Women's Organization, notes that "no international media organization covers the demonstrations against foreign intervention which take place frequently," and that "the harshest criticism of the regime comes from abroad, from the international press, far more than from inside the country."
For much more information, please read the full report below. The Lebanonization of Syria