World Bulletin/News Desk
Just-declassified Defense Intelligence Agency paper reads like an analysis of the current 18-month-old Syrian civil war, Foreign Policy report reminds today. DIA analysts wrote this paper in April 1982, 30 years ago -- just after the horrific Hama massacre by then-Syrian leader Hafez Assad, who used jets and artillery to level the city and wipe out a Muslim Brotherhood-led uprising.
According to the report, the similarities are striking. "The regime -- Assad the father then, and Assad the son now -- uses the same brutal tactics of repression. It rains indiscriminate violence from the air, from cannons, and from tanks on the urban centers of the uprising, regardless of civilian casualties," FP says.
About the Hama massacre, the DIA analysts' conclusion quoted:
"The Muslim Brotherhood leadership was fully aware that they had the Assad regime in a 'no win' situation over Hama. If Assad had not acted forcefully against Hama, the rebellion might have spread to other cities which in turn might have led to a full-scale rebellion. Assad's liberal use of artillery in breaking the resistance in Hama served notice to other cities that he has both the will and the means to retain power. By the same token, however, the government's actions have appalled and sickened a wide spectrum of Syrian society. Nonetheless, Assad's strategy continues to be based on the realization that most Syrians, regardless of their differences with the present government, do not want the Muslim Brotherhood in power, although they would undoubtedly prefer one dominated by Sunni Muslims [instead of Assad's Alawite sect]."
According to the report, the one factual discrepancy in this DIA report, compared to what we know now, is the casualty count on Hama. The document says 2,000 dead, but independent observers determined after the fact that between 20,000 and 40,000 died at Hama, within just a few weeks.
The Syrian civil war currently raging has only now reached that level of casualties, nearly 30,000 total deaths over 18 months, according to the Centre for Documentation of Violations in Syria and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
But the long roots of the current civil war are clearly visible in this 30-year-old analysis, FP reports, which includes as its last paragraph the prediction that the "covert war, therefore, is unlikely to stop, although there may be periodic lulls in the struggle."