When massive protests erupted in 2011 from the very start the Assad regime tried to discredit them as conspirators backed by some conspiracy. One pro-regime TV station even alleged that Barcelona FC was part of the conspiracy. The possibility that the initial protest movement spontaneously arose had to be ignored to justify the regime retaining power.
The Assad regime was determined to shatter the unity that initially existed within the protest movement. It would be difficult to persuade people to fight a popular protest movement that embraced members of all religions. It would be easier for the regime if it was just one religious group. Then the other groups would support the regime, or at least be silent.
It was difficult fighting a peaceful protest movement. If it became an armed insurgency then the regime would have the advantage of using their military firepower, air force and economic resources to crush such an insurgency. The international community would be less inclined to get involved in a morally ambiguous situation.
So the Assad regime sectarianized the conflict. Hardliners were released from prison at the same time as the Assad regime were arresting many peaceful protesters. In mid-2012 the regime even left Kurdish areas. The Syrian Kurds were for the most part left alone while the Syrian Arab areas were ruthlessly attacked by the regime. Painful memories of the Muslim Brotherhood's insurgency of 1976-82 were resurrected to motivate Assad's supporters in the war. Massacres were committed against Sunni communities such as the Houla massacre of May 25, 2012 in which 108 civilians were killed and the al-Qubair massacre of June 6, 2012 in which at least 55 people were killed. The brutality of the regime's repression provoked an armed insurgency in response. And, partly because of who was targeted by the regime, parts of the insurgency became Islamist in nature.
As some of those Salafists released from prison joined extremist such as Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIL the regime's narrative of a sectarian conspiracy became true. Inconvenient questions about the Assad regime's treatment of prisoners lost their urgency. As events spiraled out of control the Assad regime outsourced its work of repression to Shiite sectarian militias such as Hezbollah and others from Iraq and Afghanistan. Iranian soldiers got involved as well. Using Shiite militias further sectarianized the conflict.
The regime's actions produced this result. There was nothing inevitable about this terrible war.
Later when Russia intervened with its air bombardments it was noted by many that Russia had really intervened for the Assad regime, not specifically against the terrorists of ISIL. Most airstrikes were directed at other armed groups outside of ISIL territory.
For whatever reason the Armstrongite James Malm has tended to portray the Assad regime in a sympathetic light.
Below are some of James Malm's words concerning the war in Syria. The Assad regime's views about the conflict seem to be accepted at face value. At times it is insinuated that the insurgency was something foreign that started outside of Syria. The possibility that the Assad regime's violence created the armed insurgency seems to be not discussed by Malm as far as I know.
Before the west’s infiltration of Syria in 2011, the country was in the black and enjoying steady economic growth that beat China in terms of percentage – all during a period of recession in the west. With sanctions and destabilization, that has changed, and with further asset-stripping, just like Libya, Syria will remain deep in the red for the foreseeable future. ...[Actually the Assad regime had privatized many publicly owned resources under Bashar al-Assad before 2011.]
A Western coup de grace against Syria is expected soon, which will no doubt include some Russia / US sabre rattling. There is nothing to be concerned about, ouitside the region; this will be worked out although the war against Syria will likely spread to include Iran and Hezbollah, resetting the regional realities for a genuine dialogue for regional peace. (July 11, 2012.)
In order for an agreement on peace and safety, it is clear that there must be a war to reset the realities in the Middle East first. And this war is for the purpose of reducing Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran; to set the conditions for a peace agreement.
This war is not the tribulation and we will not lose this war, because it has been very carefully prepared for and carefully planned, for a number of years, at least three years. And the conditions are now set for that war; and when it comes, there will be a victory and the whole balance of power in the Middle East, in the region; will be changed and the conditions will be set for a peace agreement in the region. (August 16, 2012.)
Syria attacking AL Nusrah Front Al Qaeda extremists in Aleppo province. (February 22, 2015.)
This post reveals exactly what is going on in Syria and Iraq, Israel and Gaza; and how Islamic extremists are being destroyed to bring a genuine Peace and Safety deal as per 1 Thess 5:3. in 2016. The Plan to Destroy Islamic Extremists and Overthrow Assad and Iran.... (November 3, 2015.)
Obama’s national security team held four meetings in the past week on how to defeat the Islamic State. The Obama administration then discussed the Turkish allied proposal of overthrowing the Assad regime after defeating the Islamic Extremists. (November 13, 2014.)
For weeks since the liberation of Tikrit, the Coalition has been content to let the Islamic State and the Syria Hezbollah forces damage one another.... (May 25, 2015.)
Anti Assad – anti Islamic State situation may be beginning to develop from the recent IS attacks. 18,000 Turkish Troops on Standby for Anti IS Coalition Push into Syria. (June 30, 2015.)
It appears that Syria with a heavy Russian backing is gearing up for an offensive against the Islamic State inside Syria. (September 22, 2015.)
Part of the spin off from the Iran nuclear deal was for the Russians, Iranians and Chinese to join Hezbollah and Syria in an overwhelming offensive against the Islamic State in Syria; while the Kurds, Iraqis and the US attack the IS inside Iraq. (September 26, 2015.)
Putin / Obama agree to work to pass UNSC resolution on Syria and against Islamic State. Russia to bomb IS after resolution passes UNSC. (September 29, 2015.)
Russian parliament authorizes combat against Islamists in Syria. ... Russia begins Syrian air campaign. (September 30, 2015.)
Government troops launch ground offensive against Islamists in the Idlib, Homs, Hama area of Syria. (October 7, 2015.)
A look inside the deal being negotiated to resolve the Syrian trouble and destroy Islamic Extremism. (October 25, 2015.)
BERLIN/DAMASCUS (Own report) – With impressive scholarship programs, the German government seeks to establish firm ties to the future elite of post-war Syria. Already last year the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs began to bring more than 200 selected Syrian students to Germany, within the “Leadership for Syria” program, to be instructed.... (January 31, 2016.)
Turkey has rejected the Syrian ceasefire and sent over 100 Islamic Extremists across teh border to attack a town in northern Syria in coordination with other extremists inside Syria and with heavy Turkish artillery fire support. Russia responded yesterday with aerial support for the attacked town. (February 1, 2016.)
Syrian Islamic Extremists being annihilated.... (February 6, 2016.)