Say Goodbye to Syrian President Bashar Assad
There are more reports coming out of Syria that soldiers from the Syrian army continue to turn on Syrian President Bashar Assad. Many members of the Syrian military are joining the opposition against Assad's brutal crackdown and are turning their guns away from protesters and directly at the forces supporting Assad's regime.
Earlier this week, a group of soldiers that broke away from the government were reported to have ambushed soldiers loyal to Assad and in an attack that left 34 of Assad's soldiers dead. There are new reports coming in that an Air Force Intelligence building in Harasta near the Syrian capital of Damascus was attacked by defecting soldiers. Rebel soldiers are also said to have attacked several security checkpoints near Damascus. The attacks by former members of Assad's forces were of special significance because the Syrian Air Force Intelligence has played a key role in the government's crackdown. The attacks also show that Assad's forces can't even control the area surrounding the nation's capital.
Up until recently, the opposition to Assad's rule has mainly been peaceful and Assad's forces were able to conduct their violent crackdown with impunity. However, the recent military successes of soldiers who have grown tired of being ordered to kill their own people changes everything. While the forces loyal to Assad don't seem to mind killing their fellow Syrians, they could begin to question their decision to take part in the months long bloody crackdown if it's their blood that begins to run down Syrian streets.
President Bashar Assad is also coming under pressure from former allies in the Muslim world. The Arab League voted to suspend Syria's membership, Turkey has stepped up criticism of Assad's methods and King Abdullah of Jordan went so far as to say that Assad should remove himself from power. Even Syria's closest ally Iran, despite its use of similar methods against protesters, has climbed on the bandwagon and criticized President Bashar Assad's crackdown.
The combination of Syrian soldiers joining a months long opposition movement by taking up arms against President Assad's forces and increasing international pressure from his former allies point to the coming end of the Assad regime. Whether he decides to step down peacefully or is forcefully removed from office is still up to him. However the tide has turned and every day it's looking more likely that Assad's days are numbered.
Traders could profit from Assad's fall if it's a sign of growing openness in the Middle East. The actions of the Arab League and Turkey show that Middle East leaders are finally bending to the will of the people. In such an environment, business opportunities should increase and an investment like the SPDR S&P Middle East & Africa (NYSE: GAF) ETF could see significant gains.
On the other hand, some traders will point to a looming confrontation involving Israel, the United States and Iran as far more important than anything that happens in Syria. Israel has a history of making preemptive strikes against foes it believes to be building nuclear weapons and could see war with Iran as preferable to a nuclear armed Iran. Traders who feel that the threat of war with Iran overshadows any positives from Syria might want to invest in the PowerShares DB Oil Fund (NYSE: DBO) ETF or short stocks like Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) and Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV), because if war in the Middle East breaks out oil prices will surely climb higher.
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