Assad Laying the Foundations for a Civil War

(TIME) Oliver Holmes - On Sunday, the Syrian army launched a major assault on Deir al-Zor, in a heavily Sunni Muslim tribal area near the Iraqi border. By assaulting the city, Bashar al-Assad risks retaliation from its heavily armed tribes. Assad's first provocative act was the July arrest of a prominent local sheik, Nawaf al-Bashir, who is head of the main Baqqara tribe and a leading figure in the campaign against Assad. Al-Bashir, who commands more than a million Baqqara, told Reuters only hours before his arrest that he was actually trying to stop a tribal armed resistance to a military assault on Deir al-Zor as troops massed around the city. Despite being the center of Syria's oil production, Deir al-Zor is one of the poorest regions in the country, as little oil revenue has been reinvested in the desert area. Tribes there have long resented the Assad family, who they see as responsible for decimated agriculture production due to water shortages, which analysts say have largely been caused by corruption and mismanagement of resources.

2011-08-09 00:00:00

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