We are hurtling through deserted towns on our way to Damascus. The driver is scared. When we entered some areas he puts his foot down #Syria
— Paul Danahar (@pdanahar) June 8, 2012
Julien Barnes-Dacey reports from Damascus on the regime's increasing unpopularity:
This hollowing-out of regime support in the capital, which is increasingly visible to visitors and residents alike, suggests the potential dawn of a new phase in Syria's long struggle. The decision by Damascene merchants to go on an unprecedented strike over recent days — locking their stores shut or sitting outside and refusing to do business in response to the Houla killings — marked an important escalation of local defiance. Previous calls for strikes, by contrast, had withered out unsuccessfully.
Barbara Walter explains why Assad continues to laughably deny responsibility for the massacres his forces are committing:
[T]he countries that are most likely to intervene are also democracies, and politicians in democracies cannot ignore public opinion. The more pressure the public places on their democratically elected leaders to “do something,” the more likely these leaders are to respond with action. Especially if those cries come in the months leading up to a contentious election. This is where Assad’s denial comes in. Average citizens in the United States, France and Britain are far less informed about who actually did the killing than the villagers in Houla or any politician. This uncertainty creates an opening for Assad to exploit. By denying any involvement, Assad is planting a seed of doubt that he wasn’t involved. And a seed of doubt might be all he needs to convince voters he isn’t a monster and that outside intervention isn’t necessary.