“Inter-Rebel Fighting Enters a New Phase as Salafists Declare Open War on ISIS,” by Daniel Abdallah

Inter-Rebel Fighting Enters a New Phase as Salafists Declare Open War on ISIS
by Daniel Abdallah
for Syria Comment, February 14, 2014

Three days ago, the inter-rebel fighting entered a new phase.  For the first time, Salafist factions have openly publicised their attack on the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham and the feircest battles have moved from the Northwest to the East of Syria. Ahrar ash-Sham (AS) and Jabhat an-Nusra (JN) – al-Qaeda’s official branch in Syria – are officially at war with ISIS. The recent fighting spans many governorates, but two – Deir az-Zour and al-Hasakah – have seen the most intense fighting between ISIS and JN/AS. Concurrent attacks on ISIS have taken place in rural Aleppo and Raqqa on a smaller scale, perhaps to take advantage of ISIS’s vulnerability because it was preoccupied in the East.

Although there were previous direct engagements between AS and JN, on the one hand, and ISIS, on the other, they were never at such scale, never so exacerbated, at least, as will be shortly explained, from the AS and JN side. The most well-known precedent took place in the days leading to 12th January 2014 – the date on which Raqqa fell into the sole control of ISIS. ISIS had been surrounded in the gubernatorial palace by AS from the West and by JN from the East, and the outcome of the battle looked all but certain. Quite unexpectedly, JN fighters were informed on their radios by ISIS to ‘surrender or withdraw because AS have left the battle field and you are on your own’.[1] For ideological reasons, AS fighters had decided not to participate in the fitna (civil discord among Muslims) and to avoid having the blood of their ‘brothers’ on their hands. They, however, were not rewarded for their attempt to remain neutral. They were captured and executed by a different ISIS force outside Raqqa, although ISIS had initially agreed to grant them safe passage.[2]

The infighting under discussion had its origin in a dispute over the control of the Konicko oil field in Khasham, Deir az-Zour. Cottage-industry methods of refining crude oil have become a profitable source of cash for rebels and tribesmen alike in the ‘liberated’ areas of North Eastern Syria.[3] The oil field was originally under the control of tribes who had pledged allegiance to ISIS, but the Common Islamic Court (Hay’a Shari’a) in Deir az-Zour – largely under the influence of JN, as they readily admit – decided to unseat those tribes and put the field under its direct control on 14th November 2014. ‘It is unacceptable that a small group should be allowed to control the common wealth of the Umma [the wider Islamic society], and in such an unorganised manner that led to electricity being cut off for many days leading to the death of innocent children and the spoilage of food and medical supplies’, it cited as reasons.[4] On 2nd February 2014 the Bu Jamel and the Bakeer tribes – allied with JN and ISIS respectively – entered into a row that resulted in ISIS retaking control of the field, and a few other facilities.[5] On 7th February, JN issued a statement intended as a stern warning to ISIS and as comment on what happened.[6] ‘ISIS has shocked us by taking control of some vital facilities in Dair az-Zour, which were under the control of the Hay’a Shari’a […] cutting supply routes to the soldiers of Islam who are standing at the frontlines inside the city and, at the same time, separating them from their strategic depth in the Deir az-Zour governorate’, they claimed. For ‘strategic depth’, read “disturbing cash flow” – the Konicko field, under rebel control, has been reported to generate $330,000 a day.[7] They further say that, once the field was in their hands, they had to give a cut to the local ISIS commander because, he insisted, he had ‘intended to liberate it’ before JN. Although JN admits the guards they had put in charge of Konicko had defected to ISIS, they say this does not give ISIS the right to retake it. JN relate that such actions are to be expected from people like ISIS, their commander had, after all, stolen $5 million from JN. JN, then, find no other way to describe ISIS’ actions than baghi (injustice), which Islamic theology allows retaliation to. ‘Either give back what you have wrongfully taken to those to whom it belongs’ or, stand warned, we have men who are ready to ‘counter your aggression and stop your injustice’.[8]

JN’s threats appeared credible. On the next day (8th February), they started shelling ISIS positions all over Deir az-Zour, the reports also mentioned that AS and other factions were collaborating with JN in this effort.[9] JN put ISIS’ biggest headquarters in Deir az-Zour – their centre near the salt mines of at-Tibni – under siege.[10] A scholar in JN tweeted that ‘there is only slaughter for those transgressors [ISIS]’.[11] One time JN enemies, the Busaraya local clan from the Masrab village joined the fight on JN’s side.[12] JN, however, said that no men from Masrab were fighting with it.[13] By the end of the day, JN and the Islamic Front (of which AS are members) had overtaken al-Bukamal on the Iraqi border,[14] and could count the ISIS military commander in Deir az-Zour – Abu Dujana the Libyan – among the casualties.[15]

According to Aaron Zelin’s analysis, during the first stage of the infighting ISIS was able to reconquer most of the territory it was almost driven out of and exercise sole control over it by, among other things, securing localised ceasefires and, while exploiting this and the hesitation of Salafist factions to fight them, thereby allocating resources where they were most needed.[16] ISIS may have tried to use the same tactic in this phase but, so far, its efforts appear to have been unsuccessful. They were able to secure a ceasefire with JN in Mouhasen,[17] and there were reports that they had called for reinforcements from Raqqa and Aleppo.[18]

The second day of fighting witnessed considerable escalation, ISIS detonated a car packed with explosives in the oil market in Sabha.[19] The car set off from the Jafra oil field, which ISIS controlled, and was reportedly headed to a JN checkpoint in al-Busaira. However, it was stopped in as-Sabha by one of the market guards. The guard asked the driver to get out of the car but he told him he was a suicide bomber and asked him to let him pass as this was not the area he wanted to blow up. The guard attempted to force him to get out of the car, but the suicide bomber ended up detonating the explosives killing 22 people, six of whom were children.[20]  In a different incident, JN was reported to have executed 20 ISIS members.[21]

The same day (9th February) ISIS issued a statement about the events in Deir az-Zour.[22] It said JN had wronged ISIS before: by not joining ISIS when it was formed, by collaborating with Sahawat (a pejorative reference to AS) against it in Raqqa and, now, by seeking ‘revenge’ on ISIS whose peaceful efforts to ‘correct the path of Sahawat and counter their aggression’, ‘being careful not to spill any blood’ had caused, so ISIS claimed, many JN fighter to defect and join ISIS.[23] It also explained that JN were now collaborating with “Sahawat” again in this fight, which include: Liwa al-Ahwaz, AS and Liwa Ja’far at-Tayyar (part, with AS, of the Islamic Front), and with the ‘criminals of the Masrab village’. It identified the ISIS positions which had been shelled and fired upon with tanks by JN and its allies as: at-Tibni, Ma’dan, Mintaqat al-Jadeed and al-Jafra – where JN had reportedly executed 20 ISIS members. The statement ended with a threat.

ISIS, the next day (10th February), withdrew from all their positions in Deir az-Zour,[24] except for their centre at the Tibni salt mines.[25] Casualty reports in the ISIS camp ranged from 20 to 50.[26] The day also witnessed JN blowing up the ISIS communication centre in Deir az-Zour.[27]

While JN, AS et al where enjoying these tactical advances on ISIS in Deir az-Zour; concurrently, it was ISIS who was on the advance, against these very same groups, in al-Hasaka. A local media activists informs me that there had been a tactical alliance between all these factions when they were fighting the YPG in rural Hasaka – the alliance had even been codified into an ‘official’ agreement between ISIS and AS, as will be shortly explained.[28] Once they had been able to drive the YPG out of Tal Barak and Tal Hamees, however, ISIS turned on its allies forcing many, according to the AS narrative, to pledge allegiance to it. By 9th February, ISIS had emerged as the sole power in Tal Barak, Tal Hamees and al-Hool in rural Hasaka.[29] Both AS and JN released statements about the events in rural al-Hasaka. AS claimed that they have a recording in which ISIS scholars deem AS members infidels (kuffar) because they are ‘in league with other infidels since they refrain from publicly showing any animosity toward them’.[30] This is a reference to the West and to regional powers all of whom ISIS considers infidels. They said they were going to release the recording later. According to the statement, on 6th February ISIS took a ‘treacherous stab’ at AS – attacking AS centres all over Hasaka, stealing money and weapons, and capturing fighters and forcing them to pledge allegiance to ISIS. All this happened despite an earlier official agreement between the two parties ‘not to fight and to concentrate on fighting the regime and its allies in the area’. The agreement opened with the phrase: ‘we swear to Allah the Great that we shall not raise our arms in the face of our brothers or each other or any factions that fight the regime’. For the above reasons AS considers that agreement null and void and that the ISIS are a ‘treacherous and betraying group’. The JN statement talks of ISIS capturing JN fighters in Shaddadi, al-Hasaka and killing their soldier Abu Ishaak al-Mashhadani, in ‘cold blood’.

During the same period, perhaps to take advantage of ISIS involvement in the East, there were sporadic attacks on it in the Northern West. In Tal Abiadh, Jabhat Tahreer al-Furat al-Islamiya managed to capture 3 ISIS fighters, for example.[31] In ar-Raqqa, there were reports of an AS suicide bomber detonating himself in an ISIS stronghold killing 11 ISIS members, although the report is of questionable accuracy.[32] ISIS was also engaged in al-Ula and Tal Shheer in rural Aleppo[33], and the result was al-Ula slipping out of its hands.[34] A local contact in Jarablus (Northern rural Aleppo) informed me that the ISIS contingent stationed there had partially blown up the bridge, over the Euphrates, connecting Jarablus with ash-Shuyoukh and Ain al-Arab further to the East, to fend off an imminent attack by brigades loyal to Liwa’ al-Tawheed (part of the Islamic Front).[35] He sent this photo in which one can see the damaged Western end of the bridge:

ISIS has now been expelled from one the most economically important regions (because of the oil) for the armed groups, which might impact it in a too insignificant way. Can this stage be read as a prelude to a wider engagement between JN and AS and ISIS? For JN, AS and the Islamic Front in general fighting ISIS in Deir az-Zour has been an epiphenomenon brought about by local conditions, rather than a key concern grounded in a central strategy. Similar conditions exist in Hasaka, but unless these groups are able to mobilise a sufficient force to counter ISIS locally, it is unlikely that they would move contingents from the much more important region of Deir az-Zour. The presence of the YPG might be an important local factor forcing unity, however uneasy, and working to preclude the possibility of wider conflict à la Deir az-Zour. Conditions that could allow for the justification of escalation in Raqqa, on the one hand, and the will to mobilise a force large enough to do so by JN and the IF, on the other, are lacking. The strategy used by ISIS’ ideological siblings (AS and JN) to justify attacks on it has been centred around using local grievances caused by ISIS, that are fresh in memory, and frame their attacks as fights for justice – not, and this is important, as attempts to defeat ISIS or cause it to cease to exist as such. This framework currently remains inapplicable to Raqqa, which is, also, much less economically significant than Deir az-Zour or Hasaka. There is a moderate possibility for further escalation in rural Aleppo, because the region is under a much more heterogeneous form of control and different factions, with different loyalties, co-exist in close proximity to one another.

Could ISIS retaliate and regain its positions in Deir az-Zour? As noted above, in the first stage of the infighting, ISIS was able to make advances by capitalising on local ceasefires to divert resources to the front lines. In this stage, such possibilities seem to have been exhausted. Retaking Deir az-Zour, now, requires ISIS to gather troops from its strongholds such as Raqqa or Eastern rural Aleppo, leaving these areas vulnerable to local take overs. Although this is an embarrassing defeat for ISIS, fighting all other militias combined in Deir az-Zour may turn into a significant threat to its ability to control large territories. They might opt out, instead, for small scale operations, sabotage and suicide bombings to destabilise the area for the other factions, and try to frame this as a tactical victory.

What about Assad? Assad is still capable of marketing himself as a potential partner in fighting ‘terrorism’, for although the rebels are attacking ISIS, something he is not doing, they are in close cooperation with JN – al-Qaeda’s official branch, which the US deems a terrorist organisation.

The overall situation in the inter-rebel war is highly atomised, with a mixture of small scale victories and losses throughout the country. This characterisation is likely to remain true, as not only the infighting between the rebels but the Syrian Civil War in general have proven to be governed by reverse hierarchies of conditions where the local governs the global, rather than the other way around.

[23] Jabhat an-Nusra was originally an unofficial branch of the Islamic State in Iraq. After a while, Baghdadi – leader of the ISI – annulled JN and declared the creation of the ISIS. Jawlani – leader of JN – did not accept, said he was not consulted and appealed to the authority of Ayman az-Zawahiri – head of Al-Qaeda Central, who ruled in his favour. It recently turned out, however, that neither the ISI, nor the ISIS, were under the authority of Zawahiri as they were not part of al-Qaeda.
The Sahwa (awakening) movement started in Iraq when local tribes collaborated with the US army to fight al-Qaeda. ISIS uses the term pejoratively to refer to groups who fight it.

[28] The YPG (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, the People’s Protection Units) are a largely Kurdish group that is considered to be the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (although they deny this). They have been clashing with different rebel factions in an attempt to keep Kurdish-majority areas neutral and to establish a nascent order as the basis of a future federal, some would say independent, Kurdish region in North-eastern Syria.

[35] He gave the names of the specific brigades as: Ahrar al-Qubba (Tawheed), Ansar ash-Sharia (Liwa’ al-Islam), ash-Shaheed Juma’a al-Jader (Tawheed), and ath-Thaher Beibars (Tawheed). They are all part of the Islamic Front.

Comments (31)


 
 

3. Alan said:

No one will be able to bring out from the corner the monkey who holds his hand bomb ! Most likely will explode his bomb in his hand!

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February 14th, 2014, 4:04 pm

 

4. Sami said:

A “New Syria” that is against both extremes is not only the sole solution towards a better Syria but without it there won’t be a Syria!

http://shamlife.com/?page=show_det&select_page=26&id=36928

When Tartous is protesting, you know the Assad’s are in trouble!

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February 14th, 2014, 4:24 pm

 

5. Sami said:

The insistence on calling the rebel offensive against ISIS as “inter-rebel” or “in-fighting” is very much in-line with regime rhetoric.

Can Daniel show me where and when was Daesh ever accepted by the opposition for them to be constituted as “rebels”?

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February 14th, 2014, 4:30 pm

 

6. Alan said:

Syrian state is responsible for itself, but is not responsible for the failure of the policies of collective foolish on its territory!
The incursion in the policies of failure and threat to use the force will bring dominoes effect and no one will be able to control over events! Holland would be like a fox on the run, when it will increase the hottest events! He suffered from colic and excessive increase in gas! K Hussein‘s son apparently he plans to spend his life in the country of his mother!

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February 14th, 2014, 4:36 pm

 

7. Alan said:

This is a leaked video from May 2013 showing French ambassador to Syria, Eric Chevallier, having an argument with members of the “Syrian National Coalition” in Istanbul, Turkey. The French ambassador tells the SNC that they do not deserve the efforts that they have made. There was some argument about not acting on an agreement. There were also accusations of insults and shouting made by the ambassador to one of the SNC members. The video also shows how some were concerned with the weapon supply being cut off due to the latest stance by the French.

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February 14th, 2014, 5:09 pm

 
 

9. Tara said:

More images of the tortured. I hope that those images get displayed across the globe to let the world knows the kind of animals the revolution is up against.

http://www.zamanalwsl.net/en/news/3705.html

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February 14th, 2014, 6:38 pm

 

10. Alan said:

Sudden changes in the course of U.S. policy on the eve of the conference Geneva 2 all plunged into confusion. Washington suddenly ceased to demand the transition from war to peace, but demanded the transition of Syria Bashar al-Assad Syria, controlled by Saudi Arabia.
It is motivated by a desire to switch media attention on the problems of Syria and decide the outcome of the quiet main U.S. rate – Palestine.
http://translate.google.ru/translate?sl=ru&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=ru&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.voltairenet.org%2Farticle182050.html&act=url

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February 14th, 2014, 6:45 pm

 

11. Alan said:

Erdogan is the real leader of Al-Nusrah,
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BgeLvbwCUAAKsAG.jpg

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February 14th, 2014, 6:48 pm

 

12. ghufran said:

You guys need to remember that YouTube is a two edge sword, videos taken years ago will still be available today.
Sami, whom I usually consider to be fair-minded, said this:
“Can Daniel show me where and when was Daesh ever accepted by the opposition for them to be constituted as “rebels”?”
The truth is that Nusra and ISIS until lately were seen as a major part of the rebel movement, even if their numbers were relatively small at the beginning, and they were hailed as heroes by many on the opposition side. Here is AJ Akidi, a major figure in FSA:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qCDTuGvljpY
Another assumption that is being challenged is that most of those trapped in old Homs were women and children. NPR reported, and that was mentioned in other sources also like Los Angeles Times, that 2/3 of those who left Homs were men and many were held by security forces and harassed by some angry Homsis who also “assumed” they were fighters who want to run away. NPR also reported that there are many armed rebels who may be ready to give their weapons and leave the city.
more than 400 men from Homs have surrendered to Syrian forces, and around 200 have been released, according to an AP tally

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February 14th, 2014, 7:05 pm

 

13. Tara said:

ماذا تعرف عن قرية «معان» درع النظام واجرامه؟

طالب وفد النظام السوري خلال محادثاته مع الابراهيمي اليوم في الجولة الثانية من مؤتمر جنيف إدانة “المجزرة” في قربة معان في ريف حماة , والتي سيطر عليها الثوار أمس, قبل أي مفاوضات في جنيف.

“معان” قرية علوية كانت منذ سنتين وحتى السيطرة عليها مصدر القصف على المناطق المجاورة, عدا عن أعمال الخطف والقتل الكثيرة التي قامت بها, وكانت مصدر ترويع وتصدير للموت, يجهله مجلس الأمن واللاطائفيون ولكن تعرفه الكثير من الأمهات.

اليوم صباحاً يقصف طيران الأسد حي طريق السد وتسيل و مدرسة للأطفال في المزيريب أثناء دوامهم وعشرة أطفال أنهوا درسهم بأجساد ناقصة… وساكنة, هذا في درعا.

منذ شهرين لم يتوقف استخدام البراميل في حلب, وفي كل يوم تسقط براميل التفجير على مناطق الفقراء الحلبيين, وتفتت أجساد الكثير منهم إلى أشلاء مطحونة تحت أنقاض البيوت, ومجموع من استشهدوا بهذه البراميل فقط يتجاوز عدد سكان بلدة “معان” هذه, التي لم يظهر أي توثيق لأي مجزرة فيها بعد (وإن ثبت مقتل “أبرياء” فيها فهو مدان).

المحاصرون في حمص وأحياء جنوب دمشق,يتناقصون يوميّاً إما بالقصف أو الجوع, اعتبرت الأمم المتحدة أن إخراج بعض نساء وعجائز حمص من منطقة الحصار, و إدخال سيارتي أطعمة للمحاصرين ليموتوا بوجوه حمراء, بادرة حسن نية للنظام يستحق الثناء عليها والإشادة.

الراهبات ما زلن مختطفات لدى الإرهابيين في منزل ما, آلاف النساء معتقلات في سجون النظام, من لم تعذّب بالاغتصاب أو السجائر أو الشبح سيعذّبها الوقت الذي لا قيمة له لدى الأمم, ماالذي يشغل الفاتيكان والأمم المتحدة لو أن أم سمير لم تطبخ لأبنائها هذه السنة, ما الذي سيربك التاريخ لو أن ألف أم سمير لم تطبخ, ولكن السماء قد تغضب علينا لو لم تتلُ الراهبات الترانيم أمام المذبح.

بضعة آلاف من المهاجرين السنة إلى سوريا يشغلون مراكز الدراسات في العالم, وكل خطب الدبلوماسيين, وكل خطط الحل الذي يبدأ بتصفيتهم, سبعة عشر فصيلاً شيعيّاً أجنبياً يقاتل في سوريا, جميعها تقدم بروباغندا تكفيرية طائفية أكثر رعباً وخروجاً عن التاريخ من خطاب القاعدة, ولكن لا أحد يحتاج معلومة كهذه.

المجتمع الدولي مشغول بتطمين الأقليات الخائفة من أشلاء الأكثرية, والمجتمع الدولي مهموم بانتهاء “الأزمة” السورية, والمجتمع الدولي يحتاج طيران النظام حتى لا يتهم بالانحياز إلى “طرف” دون آخر, وأطراف السوريين ما زالت تترامى في الهواء…
http://shamlife.com/?page=show_det&select_page=33&id=36836

And I add, damn the heaven that is angered by nuns not singing their prayers but not angered by mass murder.

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February 14th, 2014, 7:19 pm

 

14. Atassi said:

Saudi Giving Syria Rebels Antiaircraft Missiles

Maria Abi-Habib, Stacy Meichtry

Dow Jones

AMMAN, Jordan–Washington’s Arab allies, disappointed with Syria peace talks, have agreed to provide rebels there with more sophisticated weaponry, including shoulder-fired missiles that can take down jets, according to Western and Arab diplomats and opposition figures.

Saudi Arabia has offered to give the opposition for the first time Chinese man-portable air defense systems, or Manpads, and antitank guided missiles from Russia, according to an Arab diplomat and several opposition figures with knowledge of the efforts. Saudi officials couldn’t be reached to comment.

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February 14th, 2014, 10:23 pm

 

15. ghufran said:

This heart breaking video is a sample of what war brought to poor Syrians and a reminder that there are innocent people who are getting killed every day:

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February 14th, 2014, 10:49 pm

 

16. apple_mini said:

Since Saudi has sent so many wonderful “gifts” to Syria, time for Syrians return the favor by sending back some of those “gifts”.

I am sure the Saudis will understand it and appreciate it.

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February 14th, 2014, 11:29 pm

 

17. Sami said:

Ghufran,

I guess we differ in our meaning of the Opposition.

I do not see the Republican Guard, 4th Brigade, or the Shabeehas as representative of “other side” nor do I see the various rebel factions as representative of the opposition.

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February 15th, 2014, 12:17 am

 

18. Tara said:

Geneva I and II is now over. And the opposition won in my opinion.

The first victory was in establishing their image as united coherent force that opted for a political solution and came to the negotiating table with a comprehensive proposal that ensure democratic free Syria as opposed to Assad’s team who came out as a cohort of thugs and peasants, using foul language in public, unwilling to negotiate, unwilling to listen, and unable to move forward. The second victory was in convincing the world that ISIS is not part of the revolution but rather an enemy of the revolution. A dark shadow has one been casted in regard to possible regime and Iran contributions to its formation and livelihood. The US has made it clear that Assad brutality brought the terrorists. The Assad’s propaganda of fighting terrorism was successfully preempted.

The Assad will continue to torture and brutalize and bombard Syrian towns and cities. The revolution will continue and the Islamists will continue to pour in….until one day, Obama wake up and decide that his policy in Syria has failed miserably and that he needs to do what he needs to do to protect the American interests.

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February 15th, 2014, 9:06 am

 

19. Alan said:

Saudi Arabia has offered to give the opposition for the first time Chinese man-portable air defense systems, or Manpads, and antitank guided missiles ! God willing, will turn their weapons against them to become!
“We’re trying to assure the international community that they can support moderates without the threat of arms falling into the hands of al-Qaeda” ’mother f****d said
Kindergarten!
and what if you as a result of such brain f****n game a bit of content warehouses the Brave Syrian Arab army will be on hand in Sinai, Bahrain, Yemen? and if say seriously, then in Paris, London and New York?
Saudi Arabia must be punished! And prefer to buy time and eradicated early as a supplier of global terrorism!

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February 15th, 2014, 11:48 am

 

20. Observer said:

Alan
US beat Russia in Hockey and the women Swiss team beat the Russian one as well.

Putin was seen crying

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February 15th, 2014, 12:40 pm

 

21. Tara said:

Batta, the peasant, declares the negotiators in Geneva “terrorists” and steal their assets. Yet, the regime claims Batta is for political solution. Good job, Batta! You are outdoing your self. Getting a step closer to your end.

Syria adds opposition peace talks delegates to ‘terrorist list’
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
43 minutes ago

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

GENEVA (Reuters) – Syria has added opposition delegates at peace talks in Geneva to a “terrorist list” and seized their assets, including the house of one of them, anti-government negotiators and a diplomat said on Saturday.

The opposition delegation only learnt of the decision when a copy of the Justice Ministry decision was leaked this week to the opposition website http://www.all4syria.com, the sources said.

The memorandum, issued by the Justice Ministry, says the assets had been frozen under a 2012 anti-terrorism law.

The decision will further antagonize opposition members and their international backers after a second round of negotiations failed on Saturday to achieve any meaningful gains beyond an agreement to meet again at an unspecified date.

One diplomat said the opposition negotiators had discovered a few days ago that most of them were on a “terrorism list” of 1,500 activists and rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.

“When (opposition member) Suhair al-Atassi saw her name she realized she had lost her house. A tear dropped from her eye for a moment and she then returned to her combative self,” said the diplomat, who was meeting the opposition negotiators in Geneva.

Asked why Damascus had put members of the opposition Nation Coalition umbrella group on its terrorism list and frozen their bank accounts, Syrian government delegate Bashar al-Jaafari said: “You are trying to terrorize me and you won’t succeed.”

He said the decision was made two months before the Geneva talks began. “This has nothing to do with the Geneva conference. Whoever refuses to fight terrorism is part of terrorism.”

Members of the National Coalition make up the bulk of the opposition delegation to the talks, which opened on January 22.

One delegate, Ahmad Jakal, said: “The regime wants to prove it can get to us personally. In its sick thinking, anyone who opposes it is a traitor and terrorist.”

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February 15th, 2014, 12:50 pm

 

22. Alan said:

20. OBSERVER
With all congratulations to the winners and thank to losers for participate!
Next time they can win!

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February 15th, 2014, 1:06 pm

 

23. ghufran said:

بدأ سريان اتفاق المصالحة في مناطق بيت سحم وببيلا ويلدا في منطقة السيدة زينب (ع) جنوب العاصمة السورية دمشق. ويقضي الاتفاق بازالة السواتر ودخول الجيش السوري والشرطة الى بيت سحم وببيلا ويلدا, هذا وقد تم البدء بتنفيذ الاتفاق قبل قليل و دخل الجيش السوري الى تلك المناطق كما تم رفع العلم السوري و استلام الاسلحة الثقيلة و المتوسطة من المسلحين.
Appetite to fight in many areas around Damascus seems to be curbed somewhat, New towns entered into an agreement with the army:
Bait Sah’m, Bebila and Yalda. The big question is Yabroud.
Other hot spots like Jobar, Daria and Adra (albalad)remain elusive.

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February 15th, 2014, 1:31 pm

 

24. Alan said:

Will spread thermal missiles, anti-aircraft like mushrooms in the forest after the rain! All the consequences arising from this matter will be the product of American politics!
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304703804579382974196840680?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702304703804579382974196840680.html

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February 15th, 2014, 1:51 pm

 

25. norman said:

Ghufran, That is how the conflict is going to end, for the Syrian government making deals on the ground and building trusts to fight the hard core extremists. The people outside the country do not control the fighters and can not make them do anything.

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February 15th, 2014, 2:00 pm

 

26. Syrialover said:

Geneva failed because the regime delegation had no permission to negotiate.

Their brief was to stall and dodge, delivering the zombie-like mantra that the only subject they would discuss was “terrorism”. (By their definition, this term relates to every single Syrian who does not support Assad, including the Opposition members in Geneva who have just been officially designated “terrorists” by the regime, put on wanted lists and their property confiscated back home etc).

This is because of the tight no-escape corner Bashar Assad has painted himself into back home, explained here by Aboud Dandachi:

“Assad has created a narrative where the only acceptable outcome from his constituency’s point of view is a total and crushing defeat of the “takfiri” opposition, a result Assad has found it utterly impossible to deliver on.

“If you have painted your enemy as nihilistic savages, hell bent on the subjugation of the entire country under an “Islamist emirate”, then the only way the Alawite communities in Homs, Damascus and the coast will be preserved is by the complete and total annihilation of these “takfiris” and their supporters.

“Of course the Geneva talks failed! Waleed Muallem and Buthaina Shaaban et al would have been lynched by the regime’s own supporters among the delegation if they had uttered so much as a compromising word, let alone discussed any deal to transition to shared power. One does not share power with “takfiris”.

(http://adandachi.com/istanbul/alawites-will-kill-assad/)

In other words, Assad is trapped by his narrative back home that the opposition poses an existential threat to his own Alawite constituency.

Terrorised by this propaganda, and dying as cannon fodder in their thousands, mass killing ordinary Syrians and destroying their own country in what they are told is a fight for their lives, they can’t suddenly accept a change of story and start “giving in” and compromising.

That would be a betrayal and “weakness” by Assad who is already showing that he isn’t up to winning the fight he started, despite all the help from Russia and Iran.

Foreign governments know that, including the Russians which makes their pressure on Assad just a pretend game to save face and remain as players.

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February 15th, 2014, 2:36 pm

 

27. Syrialover said:

Back in 2011 I and others said here that Bashar Assad is riding a tiger he won’t be able to control or get down from. How prophetic!

The tiger is now devouring him, chewing off a leg here and an arm there, as it grows bigger and wilder. The al quaeda myth coming true, the Iranians taking control and having to be rescued by Hezbollah, the huge loss of territory, destruction of the country’s infrastructure and millions fleeing, the chemical weapons, the evidence of industrial scale torture and starvation, the list goes on and on.

Misjudgements, mistakes, failure. There is nowhere safe for Bashar to jump off and flee the tiger.

As Dandachi describes it:

“Assad today is a liability, to both his own constituents, the country in opposition to him, and to the region as a whole. His room for political maneuver is almost non-existent, his ability to deliver a military victory completely impossible.

“Unable to bring the war to a conclusion, incapable of orchestrating a decisive victory in any shape, way or form, the most extreme elements among the regime will dispose of him.

Assad’s own rhetoric has made his demise at the hands of his own Alawites inevitable.”

(link above)

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February 15th, 2014, 2:59 pm

 

28. Syrialover said:

NORMAN, how does your vision in #25 sit with the more obvious reality I’ve pointed out in my posts above?

Assad, the tiger, those feeding it from his side, will all first have to be removed. How do you suggest this is done?

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February 15th, 2014, 3:09 pm

 

29. Syrialover said:

ALAN wrote:

“Saudi Arabia must be punished!”

And the proven big bad players in Syria’s destruction, Iran and Russia rewarded?

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February 15th, 2014, 3:51 pm

 

30. A deja-vu of internal struggles among Islamist factions in Afghanistan in the 1990s: Salafists declare war on ISIS in Syria | Angela Joya said:

[…] A deja-vu of internal struggles among Islamist factions in Afghanistan in the 1990s: Salafists decla… […]

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February 17th, 2014, 9:10 pm

 

31. jo6pac said:

Just a few voices are heard from the flip side better than nothing from this site.

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February 22nd, 2014, 9:42 pm

 

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