There's some hope for a faster end to the fighting – with British Prime Minister Cameron hinting at safe passage for Assad if he decides to quit the fight. But the outlook is grim.
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Mass casualty suicide car bombs. Kidnappings and executions of noncombatants for having the wrong political views. Religious antagonism. An expanding circle of death beyond leaders and fighters to their loved ones. Violence that can descend almost anywhere in an instant, one part traditional combat, two parts terror tactics and civilian ambushes carried out by a patchwork of militias with murky allegiances and ideologies.
That paragraph well describes Iraq at the start of 2004. The real post-Saddam bloodletting was just getting underway, and while death squads and suicide bombings were spreading dread from Basra in the south to Mosul in the north, almost no one had a full handle on what was happening, or the horrors that were to come. I certainly didn't see what was coming, or at least didn't want to believe what I was seeing on the ground.
Well, from a distance (I have not covered the war in Syria on the ground), Syria now "feels" a lot like Iraq did then. In the past two days or so, there was a suicide bombing in Hama province that was claimed by the Sunni Jihadi group Jabhat al-Nusra and that a pro-opposition group said killed 50 members of the Syrian government security forces. Yesterday, the funeral was held for pro-government television actor Mohamed Rafia, who was abducted and executed by rebels on Friday. Earlier today, Mohamed Osama al-Laham, the brother of Syrian parliament speaker Jihad al-Laham, was assassinated in Damascus.
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