Under increasing pressure from the Arab League, Syria promised early November to halt its deadly crackdown on opposition protesters. Part of the deal meant no more of the military's armoured vehicles on the streets. But instead of getting rid of them, the regime had a better idea: paint them blue.
 
The blue armoured vehicles have been captured on a number of amateur videos filmed in the restive city of Homs, where the government crackdown has been particularly fierce. According to our Observers in the city, the painted armoured vehicles appeared around a week ago. They say the blue vehicles are exact replicas of the former khaki vehicles.
 
Blue tanks in Homs. Video published on YouTube.
 
So why blue? Our Observers believe the authorities chose blue to make the armoured vehicles seem part of a peacekeeping intervention – UN peacekeeping missions usually adopt blue.
 
For now, the blue armoured vehicles have only been sighted in Homs. Nevertheless, one of our Observers sent us a copy of the following letter, written on November 8 and bearing a header from the police force in the governorate of Daraa, in southwest Syria. It calls on forces in the region to take "all necessary measures to make all military interventions appear to be police activity”.
 
 
 
We showed the letter to one of our Observers in Daraa. He said the way soldiers operate in his city has not visibly changed, but he said he found the letter plausible. It is impossible for FRANCE 24 journalists, who like all foreign journalists are barred from entering the country, to confirm the authenticity of this document.
 
If, as our Observers believe, the Syrian government is simply painting its armoured vehicles blue to reassure the Arab League of its non-violent intentions, the strategy appears to have failed. Eighteen of the Arab League’s members voted on Saturday to suspend Syria as punishment for its brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. The Arab League has asked its member states to recall their ambassadors.
 
A tank in Homs. Photo published on YouTube.
 
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Mahamadou Sawaneh.