Things are looking up for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. After a series of small insurgent victories in late September, al-Assad has been working hard to crush the rebellion in his country.
Today, it was announced that several women held captive by the Syrian government for "helping the opposition" have been released. Reports vary on the number, with some saying 10, some 13, and one going as high as 14. Sources do indicate, however, that this is simply the first step in a process that will see the release of as many as 126 women from Syrian prisons.
The move appears to have been part of a three-way prisoner swap that also freed 9 Lebanese men who have been held captive by rebels since May of last year. At a glance, it would seem that al-Assad's regime agreed to meet rebel demands for the release of these women at least in part to assuage an understandably upset Lebanon government.
After all, if American prisoners were being held in a foreign country, we would be calling for someone's head, no matter whose government we had to go through. It stands to reason that the people of Lebanon felt the same way about these 9 men. Granting the rebels a victory on this front potentially frees al-Assad from Lebanese involvement in his civil war.
It would seem, at this point, that al-Assad's interests are best served by keeping the rest of the world out of this conflict. Just consider the speed with which he capitulated to America's half-hearted demands for his chemical weapon stockpile, or the Syrian insurgents' growing desire (read: desperation) to get the world's attention. One village has resorted to shaming the international community with cartoon-esque YouTube videos (that you can view on the side of this article).
The rebels' urgency is understandable considering how bleak their cause is currently looking. Even the recent victories that helped them secure posts near the Syria-Jordan border have faded into memory as the Syrian army has effectively stopped all supply lines into rebel-held eastern Damascus. Sources inside Eastern Ghouta - the affected area - say that no food has entered the region in days.
The situation has gotten dire enough that local religious officials have declared that previously forbidden meat is now safe to eat. You think that refers to pigs? It doesn't. Citizens living inside the area are concerned that - should the blockade continue - their living conditions could deteriorate to the same level as Mouadamiya, a town that has been living under siege for over a year. Things there are so bad its people have resorted to eating grass.
While the U.S. has loudly decried the actions taken by al-Assad, they have also remained uninvolved in the conflict, most likely because of the loud American outcry that arose when armed conflict with Syria seemed almost unavoidable. Whether or not the American decision to stay out of the continuing war was ultimately the right way to go depends on who you ask (both sides make extremely compelling cases), but one thing is certain: it worked out well for old Bashar.