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If Kofi Annan thinks he has got anywhere in dealing with Assad, then he will be disappointed

Recently the UN peace envoy Kofi Annan travelled to Syria (after initial reluctance on the part of the Syrian government) to meet with the ever-embattled President and representative of his family Mafia - both a single person - Bashar al-Assad, the man who’s security forces (and they can conclusively be called his security forces under the legal responsibility invested in the President) have been killing peaceful protesters and  for months, spawning the latter to protect the former.

Every single agreement that was supposed to halt the violence has has next-to-no effect on the levels of bloodshed on the part of the security forces. The Arab League peace plan in November 2011 went completely unheeded by the Syrian government and their was still unabated killing in the form of around 250 deaths between the 2nd November (the date of the signing) and the 12th November.  The Arab League Monitoring mission in December 2011 merely delayed the time period in which the security forces would open fire on demonstrations - as soon as the observers were out of sight.

Every single plan proposed has either been rejected by Damascus in the name of the “sovereignty” of Syria, has been paid lip service in the form of meaningless rhetoric, or has been downright ignored. 

Now Mr Annan thinks he may have made a change. He has presented Mr Assad with a series of "concrete proposals" to curb the violence. Meaning that he has done very little that most other international actors have already done or tried to do. Condemn the violence, hand over some proposals (backed by next to no practical action  to ensure that the government enforces them) to the President, shake hands, leave.

Will his “concrete proposals” (which he has yet to elaborate on but will likely be nothing innovative) change anything?

Unlikely. The regime has shown time and time again that the only respect it has is for violence and violent methods of suppression. Notice how Assad was never talking about any kind of negotiated settlement until the armed resistance came about as a reaction to his brutality. On the 30th March he was rambling on about avoiding “subjecting the reform process to momentary conditions, otherwise it will be counterproductive”. The only negotiated settlement that came about (and the only significant development of this kind throughout the entire conflict) was after fierce Free Syrian Army resistance for days on end against  almost impossible odds, and government acceptance that they could not dislodge the fighters for the time being. This is evident from the fact that General Shawkat himself (Assad’s brother-in-law) was reportedly leading the ceasefire negotiations himself. A sure sign that the Assad’s were listening to force and force alone.

Now, after repeated rejections and ignoring of every single peace settlement or plan, Mr Annan believes that he can somehow solve this crisis through negotiation? He even talked of reforms (we all know how swift and progressive Assad’s reforms are) which would create a "solid foundation for a democratic Syria".

All this bloodshed and some still think that this rotten travesty of hereditary Ba’athism can be reformed? Have around 10,000 deaths not shown the answer to this question? Someone pull Mr Annan out of March 2011.

Talk of “reforms” and leaving Mr Assad with a list of "a set of concrete proposals" to end the violence will get zilch achieved, save an increase in hot air while more innocents are killed. Mr Annan would do better to try to gain better access to weapons for the Free Syrian Army to help them defend these innocents. They can’t fend off the Shabeeeha while hiding behind pieces of paper, can they?

Pieces of paper which will end up down the back of the Assad family sofa, alongside Asma’s credibility and the new “constitution”.

Scores of civilians have been killed since Mr Annan departed with no agreement in his hands whatsoever, because Assad says a solution is impossible as long as the “terrorist groups” continue throughout the country. Read between the propaganda lines and change “terrorist groups” to “the oppositon movement”.

Of course, Assad hopes to sign an agreement with some meaningless opposition sock puppets as soon as he has wiped them out. But if he thinks he can do so then he is extremely deluded. When in history have bullets crushed ideals?

The government only respects violence and will fall by the same road. Not by “concrete proposals” amounting to hot air and no tangible action.

Why do so many canonise dictators for anti-Western rhetoric?

As an active reader of the news I read from many news blogs and sites, such as the Al Jazeera live blog and comment is free articles and blogs for the guardian.
However one thing has caught my eye. That is, the amount of people effectively being sympathisers and apologists for dictators. It was rampant prior to the end of the civil war in Libya in October of last year. Now it is especially so regarding Syria’s President Assad. 

I’ll give one of the best and most ludicrous examples of such a post. It appeared on a post on a Guardian live blog documenting the progress of the Arab Spring in Syria, Libya etc:
"Long live Assad!! This is all NATO and the corrupt Middle-east rulers fault. They encouraged and pertook in the overthrow of North African countries. nO 

Long live Assad! He should defend his country against the NATO terrorists on his soil. He saw what happened to Gadaffi he needs to take no chances and crush the NATO / Saudi/Qatar terrorists. 

I love how NATO/Saudi/Qatar are now the toothless dogs! All the lies about helping Libyans has been exposed.”  

This individual clearly did not hail from an Arabic state such as Libya. Furthermore he has Gaddafi’s green flag as his avatar and was sycophantically praising Assad in the manner in which you would expect a party hack to have flattered and paid deference to the man himself.

So why is he (and so many others like him) canonising Assad? I believe from observation that there are several reasons for this ludicrous sympathy, and I will try and explain several here:

These people are nearly always huge cynics about Western interventionism. You could argue that this is with good reason and that they have become so after witnessing the debacle of Afghanistan and the disaster of Iraq. The latter was publicly outed (and is now common knowledge) to have been concocted around a tissue of lies, and the former a deeply unpopular war (initially with strong support as a means to capture Osama Bin Laden) which has claimed the lives of thousands of civilians and hundreds of soldiers in the “graveyard of empires”. 

Conspiracy theorists and the conspiratorial minded can now have a field day. Many are convinced by the anti-Western and anti-Israeli rhetoric of Assad due to their (arguably justified) cynicism with Western foreign policy. This means that everyone (especially the West) is at fault but the dictator. 

This has especially come to light during the Arab Spring. The Western backed dictatorships (the likes of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bahrain) often come under strong online condemnation by these individuals and the fact that they are repressing peaceful protests is accepted without question. 

Yet when it gets to the anti-Western dictatorships (like Assad’s Syria) the situation is very different. Due to the universal cynicism regarding the double standards and hypocrisy of US/Western foreign policy it means that they see what they want to see. 

For example, Saudi Arabia (a medieval-like monarchic, Wahhabi state) is a strong ally of the US. Human rights are virtually non-existent. Yet it (ironically) criticises the Assad government for the crackdown on peaceful protesters, yet does not mention the role it played itself in helping to crush protests in Bahrain, or the total lack of freedoms for its own people. 

Some people (those prepared to see any dictator who ups the anti-Western rhetoric in a vain attempt to get legitimacy is some kind of anti-Imperialist hero) as a result think they can put 2+2 together due to Western double-standards and the nature of the regime, and as a result they disregard the overwhelming evidence of atrocities on the part of the despot (e.g. Assad and his government) and buy into the propaganda. Then the protesters and armed opposition fighters become “Saudi terrorists” or “NATO mercenaries” and the government is justifiably trying to crush them. 

Some are more subtly cynical than others. Thus, you get those who will pick hairs with every aspect of the stories which emerge (details of those killed, names, damage, etc) and try and make them look like utter rubbish. Some have even claimed that violence from the opposition has been ongoing since day one.

Then you get those who see the capitalist system as being a cancer exclusively unleashed by the West, and see the Syrian crisis as having been started by the machinations of the West to gain a political and economic foothold in Syria. Many belong to the fanatical left – Marxists, anarchists, etc. Some of them are rabidly anti-Western and thus look for alternatives and are taken in by the “ideals” of these dictatorships.  

The likes of the “direct democracy” that the late Gaddafi’s “Libyan Arab Jamahiriya” was based around is one of the best examples of such. Little do they see that these ideologies are far from beliefs, but a means to an end for these despots. Saddam in Iraq used Ba’athism to justify his rule of tyranny, and article 8 of the Syrian constitution (which stipulates that "[t]he leading party in the society and the state is the … Ba’ath Party” has been ruthlessly exploited by the Assad family as a means to an end for their mafia-like dictatorship, to say nothing of the “central role” the party plays.

This tautology achieves nothing. We can bicker all day long about the amount of dead and how they were specifically killed, where troops are deployed, who is responsible for the most violence, if the opposition should arm itself…  

The bottom line is that none of this matters. To deny the evidence placed right in front of your eyes in the form of hundreds of hours of eyewitness accounts, thousands of hours of video footage, testimony of diplomats and so on, is simply being an apologist for a family of murderers.

The distance between Assad and ruin? 30 minutes

You may be reading the title with derision in your mind, already thinking that I am writing a somehow naive article as opposed to my usual writings.

Well do not hasten to discredit or judge the metaphorical book from the cover. The title is based around genuine fact.

Since around the 21st January of this year to the 29th/30th, Free Syrian Army forces (composed of defected soldiers and protesters whom have resorted to taking up arms) managed to seize parts of the capital, Damascus. Notable areas are Douma, Saqba, Kfar Batna, etc. 

These areas are/were - yes, you’ve guessed it - 30 minutes from the official residence of Assad, where he is presumably holding out and isolated from reality. Some have even, incredibly, estimated that Assad may have to leave his capital in weeks, or even days, for his own safety.

What’s that you say? Syrian forces have managed to retake the area and thus maintain utter control of the capital? 

I have a feeling this won’t count for much in the long term. You must remember that Syrian government forces managed to take back control of the Bab Amr neighbourhood in Homs, the stronghold of the oppositon and their armed forces. Two months later, they have control of two thirds of Homs and have driven government troops from most of the city. 

Like Homs has been, this area could become a place of touch-and-go urban warfare lasting for months, with the opposition slowly gaining the upper hand due to support of most of the local poplace. 

You can storm any neighbourhood you want with 2000 troops and 50 tanks if you’re in Assad’s position, but there’s nothing you can do to stop these fighters gaining a foothold if you do not have the support of the local poplace. From what I’ve seen, they do not. Guerrilla warfare and long-term clashes will very likely become the norm. 

I’m not the only one who thinks this. The Syrian blogger Ammar Abdulhamid (living in the US) said that: 

"Indeed, and for the foreseeable future, attacks on loyalist troops and security headquarters, checkpoints and convoys will become part of daily life in Damascus and its suburbs in tandem with loyalist crackdown, killings and detentions."  

The government forces seem to be losing on most fronts. They’ve lost most of Homs, face a rising insurgency in Idlib and Hama, they’ve lost control of Zabadani (only 20 miles from the capital), etc. The security forces and military commanders are still largely loyal to the regime, but defections from the lower ranks and an increasing insurgency are substantially draining their abilities to fight back.  

Having said that, the Free Syrian Army has a long way to go yet before it can hold onto large swathes of territory for substantial amounts of time. But at the same time, one could argue that their strength is in their guerrilla tactics and not traditional methods of warfare.

If they can get so close to Assad’s residence in the short term, then they may have him ousted from the city in the long-term. Good luck to them.

The NTC is clearly struggling to govern Libya

Ever since the controversial death of Gaddafi back in August, the NTC has been hampered by a variety of problems.  

The most problematic of those is that of the militias. These militias fought alongside the reguar NTC forces in the war to oust him. They are often made up of those who have a strong sense of loyalty to their tribe or region (the Warfalla and others being among the most significant). With the weak nature of the NTC forces and government they have been able to consolidate control of their tribal/regional location in which they have ties.  

The NTC set a deadline for the militias to either disarm and disperse, or to be integrated into the national army (still forming). It passed in December and still has barely been started; the militias control many towns with little or no unity between them and are suspicious of centralised authority. Often, armed conflict between the militias and NTC forces has escalated after a prisoner from one of them has been taken into custody by the authorities, tortured, or worse. 

The clashes have happened in all Libya’s major cities: Benghazi, and Tripoli amongst them. Often, they have involved the use of heavy weapons in the main residential areas and city centres. In such sensitive areas, any of these incidents has had the potential to ignite into something worse as rivial militias with strong ties to their regions and tribes face each other off in sensitive and populated areas. 

Low and behold. It has happened. On the 23rd January Bani Walid fell out of the control of the NTC. There are two stories as to how this happened: 

  • Some pro-Gaddafi militiamen were detained by NTC forces (and maybe tortured). As a result, a group of 150 Gaddafi loyalists carrying the Green flag (the symbol of Gaddafi’s Libya) attacked the main NTC base in the city and killed four soldiers and trapping others within the base. Mahmud Warfelli, the spokesman of the NTC’s council for Bani Walid, called for help out of fear of an impending massacre. The Gaddafi loyalists then went on to take control of the city and hoist Green Flags. They are still in control of it as of now, although the NTC is deploying military forces to deal with the situation. Armoured units from Misrata have isolated the city and air force jets can apparently be heard.  
  • Local elders allege that the town fell out of the NTC control because the ‘May 28th Brigade’ (a militia force among many others which assisted in the fight against Gaddafi during the fighting in the civil war) arrested and tortured (sadly, a common militia tactic done to those whom they suspect of having loyalties to the former leader). They say the brigade became an oppressor in the city. They deny they have any Gaddafi-related loyalties, although Bani Walid was a Gaddafi stronghold in the civil war (Saif al-Islam hid out there) and one of the last cities to fall to the NTC forces after ferocious fighting. 

Whatever the truth is (and it may be a bit of both; pro Gaddafi graffiti is apparently abundant and people testify as having seen green flags) the point is this: a city has managed to totally fall out of the control of the government three months after the civil war ended. In that time the NTC could have estabilished a strong and integrated local police force, a permanent military base, and a strong government outpost. Not a lightly-guarded outlet that falls to a few AK-47 wielding, fanatical, dictator-supporting lunatics.


What’s worse is that Bani Walid is supposed to be well guarded and supervised by the government. If this is an example of their finest practice, I shudder to think what could happen if this scenario was to be repeated in another militia controlled, much less secure (if that’s possible given the evidence) and ethnically and tribally sensitive city. Misrata fighters, Benghazi fighters and Tripoli fighters often control different areas in close proximity, so the concern is understandable.

I am no Gaddafi supporter, but the Libyan people may now have to say goodbye to their free healthcare (poor as it was) free utilities (water, gas, etc), $50,000 for newly weds etc. I just don’t see how they can provide (especially considering that they now feel obliged to Western, free-market countries) these benefits now. If Libya continues to deteriorate then expect the IMF and/or the World Bank to turn up soon with lovely loan proposals. Or worse, foreign troops to “restore stability”. 

However, faith must be held. The disunity and collapses are not all down to the NTC, but down to the abrupt collapse of the centralised system of repression under Gaddafi. A man who weakened all other institutions and forms of local government to give himself absolute power. The sluggish, ineffective nature of the NTC bureaucracy cannot be held above blame however.

Much needs to be done, and it will not be easy to achieve it. This is probably just the start of the problems the NTC faces in rebuilding Libya into a democracy. If Libyans are truly committed, they will get there. They have shown remarkable resilience so far. My best wishes to them on this difficult journey.

The Free Syrian Army is a serious game changer

The typically touch-and-go patterns of Free Syrian Army attacks and Assad forces’ counterattacks has continued unabated, regardless of the presence of Arab League observers.

 The Free Syrian Army has had trouble holding territory, as the Syrian Air Force has often descended; an infinitely superior advantage to the Free Syrian Army’s largely light weapons. In spite of this, they have remarkably been able to extend their area of operations and held territory, into the countryside around Damascus, areas of Idlib (where the government has made failed attempts to oust them) and the Bab Amr district of Homs.

The regime’s infinitely superior massed armour and well-trained troops (especially of Maher al-Assad’s 4th Division) have not stopped them carrying out lethal attacks against government forces daily, and persuading and accepting numerous military defectors into their ranks (allegedly each time they mount an attack in the vicinity of the regular army). They were even so bold as to stage an attack on the dreaded Mukhabarat (Air Force Intelligence) base to release prisoners.

No matter how many Iranian and Hezbollah mercenaries the regime has placed behind the lines of Syrian soldiers to shoot them if they try to defect, no matter how many sweeps and searches of the countryside, no matter how many families they threaten to punish, they have not been able to defeat the Free Syrian Army. This is remarkable given the number of guns pressed to soldiers backs and into their families’ houses to prevent them defecting, and the fact that they cannot track many of them down, considering the names of each defector must be known to their families and to the authorities.

The fact that the Free Syrian Army can gain control of even a small strip of a city is remarkable, given the hundreds of thousands of soldiers the government can muster. Yet they have done so.

Then this has come about. The town of Zabadani, 20 miles north of Damascus, has come under the control of the Free Syrian Army. What is astounding about this is that it is so close to the capital, in an area that could have previously been considered under the absolute control of the Syrian government. The next most astounding thing is that the government has launched two attacks to try to take back the town and each one was beaten back, with 30 (and maybe more) government casualties and large numbers of defections from the very army that was sent to defeat the Free Syrian Army.

But the most surprising thing is that the brutal, murderous Syrian government has agreed to a ceasefire. That is, they will have to stop attacking the town because they simply cannot attack it or defeat the Free Syrian Army. The fact that the government cannot control a strip of it’s own territory some 20 miles from the capital shows how far the FSA has come, from a small bunch of lightly-armed and unorganised defectors to a seemingly large army of soldiers mounting a highly effective guerilla warfare campaign.

But the fact that it has forced the government into a compromise is the most astounding (and potentially the most promising factor) the fact that it has managed to persuade the government through resiliance to pull back its forces and agree to a ceasefire shows the power and invaluable nature of the Free Syrian Army. They have accomplished in days what a peaceful protest could not have done in weeks - extract a compromise from the Syrian government regarding the use of force.

Thus, it is clear to all that the Syrian government only respects force. The Free Syrian Army’s excellent resilience has tapped into this and showed them that they will too have to be on the receiving end of force. Thus, if they could repeat this kind of resistance on a wider scale, the Assad family may realise they are finished and a negotiated settlement might become possible, although unlikely.

Even though the ceasefire may not have lasted, the fact that it has forced the government into negotiation (they are even allegedly trying to negotiate to get the rebels to hand their weapons, but unsuccessfully) opens many possibilities. However, don’t hold your breath. Gaddafi announced a ceasefire then sent his troops against Benghazi, and dictators will stop at nothing to stay in power.

Bashar al-Assad is either isolated from reality, deluded, or a liar - or all three

Recently, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad gave a speech to his embattled nation and to the world. In this speech he vowed to strike “terrorists with an iron fist”, again denounced the “external conspiracy” that he thinks (or says) is responsible for the current unrest in Syria, and declared: “We will not be lenient with those who work with outsiders from inside the country”. He also proclaimed “When I rule, I rule because that is the people’s will, and when I leave office, I leave because it is the people’s will”  and vowed “victory” in-between the odd cheer from the rubber-stamp parliament members and Baath party loyalists.    

He later delivered another speech the next day, to a largely enthusiastic crowd of thousands. He could have made it into a spectacular event and crowd-surfed, microphone in hand, but instead stood shyly and unsure of his ground, speaking nervously, slowly, and typically devoid of charisma and full of his typical rhetoric. His wife and three children were in the crowd at the front, as a clear sign of solidarity.  

This points to one thing - a feeble leader, totally unenthusiastic about his job (he allegedly never had any political ambitions and tried to refuse the job of president) and isolated from reality, or at least in a state of extreme denial.   
Over the previous weeks, some guilt has maybe been evident, or at least a wish to distance him from the violence. In his previous interview with Barbara Walters in early December last year, he showed these signs when he ironically said: “If you don’t have the support of the people you cannot be in this position”. He went on to claim, when asked about the atrocities the military was blatantly committing against peaceful protesters: “They are not my forces, they are military forces belong to the government.”  

What on earth was he talking about?! He seems to be trying to say that the president and the government are not mutually exclusive. Then it gets better: “I don’t own them. I am president. I don’t own the country, so they are not my forces.”  

Not his forces?! Firstly, the President in Syria is legally head of the army, and therefore commands the functions of the military, orders operations, etc. To distance himself from the military is simply a lie. Saying they are not his forces is also incorrect; the government and the army are very cynically entwined (hence the low number of high-level defections in the ranks of the military) and he (at least in theory) is the supreme commander. In this hierarchical structure, the military is not allowed to deploy anywhere without orders from the highest chain of command. Who could that be?   

 Even hypothesising or speculating that Assad may only be in command of his army in theory (his more openly murderous brother Maher appears to enjoy some influence) and that commanders and members of the government have more influence, his labelling the army as under control of the government also fails to exempt him from the massive and undeniable shadow of responsibility which hangs over him. The President is also the supreme head of the government, hence the rhythmic Ceausescu-esque clapping and slavish eulogies given to him before speeches in the powerless parliament.   
He (effectively) blames the government, he blames “individuals” in the army and security forces who have made “mistakes”, he blames an “external conspiracy” - everyone is to blame but himself, even when all the footage, government structure, bureaucratic procedure and all manner of evidence is against him. This is a clear (relatively unspoken) indication that he knows the disgraceful nature of the oppression and wants to keep a respectable distance from it.  

If you want to look more deeply and look back over his ten years in power, you could be forgiven for regarding all this as one part of one long-running cynical ploy that Assad has been playing over the years. To claim reformist credentials, and yet when the repression kicks in to be able to keep a respectful distance from it all and make himself look like a leader with good intentions but held back by reactionary men in his government.   

It may well be the case; he may be a mere puppet of his family and ministers, hence the incoherent attempts to absolve all responsibility. However it has been reported that the country is run by the Assad family like a personal fiefdom, and the leadership is collective. There seems to be some truth in this. A Damascus resident said: 

"The protests will not go away and the regime is finished," says one Damascus resident who has taken to the streets in protest. "But the family’s gradual detachment from the people and its arrogance means they will be the last to realise it." 

But another statement made seems to give an ominous hint that it may not be like that at all. He ominously declared in the rambling, incoherent speech: “It will end when the Syrian people decide to turn into a submissive people”.This was a small slip-up but a hugely revealing one. For a second he dropped the charade of the conspiracy-theory obsessed president, and directly referred to the Syrian people, telling them that they must be submissive to end the “conspiracy” (A.K.A. the repression).  
He is basically saying: "Stop protesting and I’ll stop shooting". 
So now we see a picture suggesting he may be a liar. Subtle hints, but telling hints. He’s probably lied to himself so much that he now believes it. Dictators in regimes such as these tend to surround themselves with flatterers and sycophants who tell them what they want to hear and eventually isolate them from reality. A 2009 US diplomatic cable said:   
"Bashar’s vanity represents another Achilles heel: the degree to which USG [U.S. government] visitors add to his consequence to some degree affects the prospects for a successful meeting.”   

More convincing evidence comes from his official biographer via the Guardian: 
"[Bashar] changed over time from a well-intentioned man into someone who believed the propaganda and praise of the sycophants surrounding him," said David Lesch, an American academic and Assad’s official biographer.”    
Now we have a somewhat accurate picture. A picture of an insecure, unenthusiastic, isolated and vain man who dislikes his job and is caught in between a rock and a hard place and maybe feeling some regrets. More likely a desperate-instinct of self-preservation, typical of all dictators. His end will be no different.

Why do dictatorships violently attack peaceful protesters? Read below…

The vicious cycle continues...Throughout the Arab Spring one shocking image emerges the most: armed government troops/thugs gunning down peaceful protesters in the streets, beating them, making arrests, torturing them in custody (often to death) and so on. But why? These people are unarmed you say, no threat at all. Here’s why:  
  • Delusions. Dictators often start to believe their own propaganda (Gaddafi and Ceausescu seem to have made that mistake) and believe that all their people love them. When they see them protesting they cannot (and will not) believe it, and they look for explanations in their warped minds: “armed gangs”, “terrorists”, “thugs”, you name it. They genuinely believe that. Hence (since many of them believe in being brutal and strong) they believe they have to fight (what they believe is) fire with fire. If they have surrounded themselves with yes-men and sycophants who tell them what they want to hear over the years, then this is very likely (Ceausescu can again be offered as an example).
  • Bewilderment. The curtain of fear they have created has made their people docile; too fearful to protest or speak out. Once they do, the government is baffled. How do they deal with it? All too often they see the climate of fear is broken, and panic, thinking excessive force will restore it.  
Little do they realise that the more force they use, the more the people will be determined to oust them, and that the climate of fear (once lifted) will never return. Dictators have signed their own death warrants throughout history by using excessive force against those speaking out; Ceausescu in 1989 (many agree if he had entered into dialogue with the people he could have salvaged something), Bashar al-Assad in 2011 (he is now faced with an armed opposition and protesters who frequently chant: “The people want the execution of the president!" who had previously only wanted reforms), the Tsar of Russia (his army turned against him), etc. The more bullets they shoot, the more ink they put into the pen that signs them off into the dustbin of history.    

Often, these dictators don’t even have riot police or any form of security forces with crowd control skills as they have never had to put up with any kind of mass public demonstration/anger (for the reasons above) and so they use the army or police force, often with live ammunition as they feel they have no other alternative. Another way in which they sign their own death warrants.  
  • If they know the truth. Often these dictators know very well what they’re doing and deliberately order offensives against people. The sort of dictators that are notorious masters of intrigue and manipulation (such as Gaddafi and Saleh) who will make concessions, sign agreements (only to promptly back out again at the last minute), play the opposition off against each other to weaken it, and generally do anything to keep themselves in power. They will use the “carrot and stick” method, but generally make excessive use of the stick.   
  • They respect only force. Many of these dictators came to power using brutal methods and tactics and have no compassion or humanity for those who do not use force. It’s like they expect them to as they genuinely do not know any other means of expression. Hence why so many dictatorships (such as Gaddafi’s now fallen dictatorship and Assad’s falling dictatorship in Syria) cannot be toppled by peaceful means; they will never agree to peace, dialogue, reform, etc because they only respect violence. They will live by the sword and die by the sword.  
  • They may simply be power-hungry/mad. In the words of John Dalton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” They love their lucrative and privileged positions and will not give them up in a hurry, so they respond with deadly force in their greed and defensiveness.
Whatever the reasons behind it, they all are fools in these instances. The vicious circle cannot work indefinitely. You cannot indefinitely keep people down with violence. Opinion thought and voice can never be crushed, even with tanks and bullets. Soldiers and security forces cannot be forced to shoot at their families, and if they can it cannot be indefinitely. Guns will turn back at them and they will die by the swords they live by. Such is the pattern of history. 
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