Fighting in Damascus Is the Last Thing Assad Wants

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A fire-war and heavy fighting has broken out in the Syrian capital of Damascus on Monday--something that President Bashar al Assad had hoped to avoid. Several news agencies are reporting the "heavy" fighting and "the strongest since the uprisings began a year ago" occurring in the Syrian capital, with reports of 18 dead and many injured. These are precisely the sorts of reports we're used to seeing in the past few weeks coming out of the ravaged rebel stronghold city of Homs, but what makes the fighting in Damascus so unusual, The New York Times reports, is that the clashes are occurring in the well-defended city and are occurring "so close to key security installations and the residences of powerful figures."

It's almost as if rebels had obtained and read the confidential Assad documents which Al Jazeera obtained and reported on today. "The documents, running into hundreds of pages, pointed to a government that was desperate to keep control of the capital Damascus and included clear orders to stop protesters from getting into the city," reports Al Jazeera.

Protecting those aforementioned officials' homes and security installations is a key reason Asad would want to keep rebels out of Damascus, but another is that it might be harder for Syrian forces to block the international community from the Syrian capital as they did with the Red Cross in Homs. If you recall U.N. Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos made a visit to Damascus just a few weeks ago, as did Russian and Chinese envoys before her. And today, a special ceasefire-seeking envoy sent by Kofi Annan has arrived in the capital, the AFP reports. All of this international presence might make it difficult for Assad to publicly blame "armed gangs" for all the violence.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.