Over the weekend, the Syrian government carried out the most savage reprisals against its opponents since the recent uprising began. More than 200 people are thought to have been killed by artillery, tanks and mortars in Homs. That figure compares with the worst daily spikes in violence in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. And the death total in Syria over the past 11 months – more than 5,600, according to UN estimates – is well above that over the same period for its still troubled eastern neighbour. The country over which Bashar al-Assad presides has become the most violent in the Middle East.