Posted by Joshua on Saturday, July 30th, 2011
Is the Free Syrian Army real?
It is now being claimed that the video which surfaced yesterday of the seven officers who claim to be the commanders of the Free Syrian Army is not what it seems to be. The video I have posted above claims to demonstrate that different officers are wearing the identical uniform. Presumably, the makers of the videos are dressing up different men in the same Colonel’s uniform so they can pose as high ranking officers.
A second video uploaded to youtube on 5 July 2011 shows the same officer who spoke in yesterday’s video (see the top of my last post). Some have suggested he is speaking from a foreign country. This makes sense because young babies are clearly audible in the background. It would be too dangerous to do this from one’s home. In another video of Shaykh `Ar`our on Wisal TV, Colonel Ahmad Hijazi calls in. He is one of the seven soldiers. He has babies crying in the background, as well. One could not phone in from Syria without the Mukhabarat potentially listing to the phone call. Certainly, one would not risk this with his baby children in the back room. This would suggest that the leaders of the Free Syrian Army are in Turkey, Jordan or Saudi Arabia and not in Syria.
syau writes in the comment section:
Watch out Syrian Arab Army, 7 so called defectors have formed their own army to fight you. The desperation of this ‘revolution’ is hilarious.
@2 Your nervous laugh is understandable. That was a colonel in the video, who probably has under him any number of majors, who also command captains, who also give orders to lieutenants. Care to hazard a guess how many conscripts those lieutenants command?
(Of course, none of the Baathists want to mention Abukamal, and the way the whole garrison there defected two weeks ago)
It takes an enormous amount of guts to defect from the Syrian army. There is no going back, if caught they will be executed on the spot. They will be risking everything to defend their neighborhoods, families and friends, and they won’t even have the benefit of a fake amnesty.
The fact that any soldier or officer at all would think of defecting is remarkable. The fact that so many have in increasing numbers is nothing short of miraculous.
The courage and resilience displayed by the Syrian people has been truly remarkable. It puts to shame those other nations and peoples who gave up or compromised for less of an excuse.
Ya Mara Ghalba
See the video uploaded to youtube on 5 July 2011, which shows the same purported army defector as the one who’s speaking in the video linked to by Joshua. This purported traitor looks so relaxed, here, I’m willing to bet he’s in a far-off foreign country:
Joshua’s video should be presumed by every sensible person to be fictitious and foreign-produced, with none of the seven people in it being residents in Syria in recent years.
Abu Umar said:
It’s clear that these menhebek thugs support the slaughter, jailing and torture of tens of thousands of Syrians. Do you expect those who have been oppressed to be killed by your regime and for them to smile at you? Be careful what you wish for and you will remember the days of Ar’oor fondly.
Souri333 (formerly Souri) said:
Where is this army located?? Is it in Syria or in dreamland?? How many tanks and planes does it have??
Who told you the regime can’t survive if the rebellion spreads to Aleppo and Damascus?? Who told you these two cities are “silent”?? Do you think the rebellion has not spread to Damascus yet??
I stopped taking this blog seriously long ago because it has become too absurd.
Assuming those officers are true defectors, does that legitimize this chaos that is destroying the country?! Should we now abandon all peaceful and gradual reform efforts, and instead join those defectors and expand this conflict to a full blown civil war?!
In a country like Syria with deep sectarian and tribal divide, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a handful of the 500,000 military personnel may have their loyalty lies elsewhere. It happens in every country during conflicts, where some soldiers/officers disobey orders. The question should be asked: how does any government in the world treat defectors? They arrest them and try in a military court. The military establishment is not a democratic institution…
Abu Ghassan writes:
This group of seven is a pathetic political stunt and a clear indication of the confusion that dominates the situation in Syria.
I learned that none of the officers were from the Alawi sect, not that it makes any real difference,and none of them held a position of any significance. Those officers may, and they have the right to be, unhappy with the regime like most Syrians, but their action will reduce them to a toy in the hands of bigger and more sinister players. Any effort to divide or harm the army is a blow to the country’s unity and safety. Those of you who are cheering this theatrical move are in need of a heavy dose of Syrian tea on top of a loaded Falafel Sandwich.
The regime is obviously trying to buy time now, and what was supposed to take place in September is now pushed to the end of the year. the only language this regime understands is pressure but not the type of pressure armed thugs are applying. It is the civil political pressure that will help keep this movement on track. People who kill, destroy and terrorize must be condemned and isolated by the opposition, and the lack of that condemnation and isolation is very harmful to the credibility of the opposition. New propaganda coming from albaath dinosaurs who are starting to feel the heat and want to preserve article-8 and prevent open elections. We will be watching!
We discussed Al Buti on SC a day or 2 ago. Is he still giving sermon in Umayad mosque? Some of my relative are/were established Sunni “figures” and I bet they think like Buti (and I have no respect for them) . I do not like the way Muslim figures dress. I want to have a dress revolution too. They all should wear a suit if it was up to me.
I just watched Aljazeera. There were massive demonstrations yesterday. The footages are coming now. Altabaqa joined in. Douma is amazing as ever. Bzourieh in Damascus demonstrating too. Looks very uplifting.
Baathist and non-Baathist,
I urge you all to see this interview with Muhammad Aref Kayali, an insider from the onset of the Baathist Syrian Party. A man of substance, a realist. Archive quality. Worth watching.
Ya Mara Ghalba writes:
Joshua likes to report what’s being said in the New York Times and doesn’t like to report what’s being said in Al-Watan. That is, the blog is skewed towards quoting sources that don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to Syria. One result is the illusion that Syrian society hasn’t yet overwhelmingly rejected all anti-regime alternatives — the illusion that the society hasn’t yet proven itself immune to the germs.
Over the past four months, conscious support for the Assad government has increased substantially. Among the educated and more liberal-minded Syrians right now, it is only a tiny minority of dissident cranks who do not consciously and positively support the government. The outsiders who think those dissident cranks are virtuous are ignorant bigots.
Ammar Abdulhamid in the LA Times
“I think the month of Ramadan will indeed be a turning point for the revolution,” said Ammar Abdul-Hamid, a Syrian opposition activist and dissident in the United States. “During Ramadan, every day will likely be a Friday, and Assad’s security forces, army troops and death squads will have tremend..
One dead, 500 arrested in Damascus roundup, Agence France-Presse, Jul 30, 2011
NICOSIA // Security forces shot dead one civilian and arrested more than 500 people in the Qadam district of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.
“Soldiers and a large number of security agents entered Qadam at 3:00 am on Friday (0000 GMT) and cordoned off the area,” said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Britain-based rights group.
“More than 500 people were arrested during the operation, and one young man was killed at a security roadblock,” he added.
Abdel Rahman said the authorities also banned public funerals in the district, and said the young man was quickly buried in the presence of security officials to forestall any demonstrations.
“The army put up barricades at all entrances to the area, and heavily armed members of the security forces carried out searches and made arrests,” he said, adding that they had lists of names of people hostile to the regime.
“Security forces broke down doors when they weren’t opened quickly enough, and then they posted people on the roofs of houses during the four-hour operation, he said.
HOMS, (SANA) – State Minister of Environmental Affairs Kawkab Dayeh on Saturday affirmed that the bombing of the petroleum pipeline by terrorist groups which took place on Friday near Tal Housh dam targets national economy, damages the environment and hams public health and livelihoods.
Deir ez-Zor bombing of oil pipeline claimed by opposition on a Facebook page
LETTRE OUVERTE D’UN PRETRE ARABE DE SYRIE A ALAIN JUPPE, MINISTRE DES AFFAIRES ETRANGERES DE LA FRANCE,
Monsieur le Ministre,
Prêtre arabe de Syrie, je viens d’apprendre à l’instant votre déclaration aux États-Unis, touchant la légitimité de notre Président de la République.
En tant que syrien, je ne puis rester silencieux face à une telle ingérence dans les affaires de mon pays.
Professeur d’Université, vous n’êtes pas censé ignorer que la légitimité d’un Président de République, dépend du consensus de son peuple uniquement, et non de l’arbitraire d’une puissance quelconque.
Ministre des Affaires Étrangères d’un pays comme la France, vous êtes censé savoir que la Syrie est un État Souverain, membre fondateur des Nations-Unies.
Mais, porte-parole grisé de certains maîtres du monde actuel, vous croyez pouvoir décider à volonté du sort des autres pays, dont la Syrie.
Pr. Elias Zehlaoui
PERE ELIAS ZEHLAOUI EST LE FONDATEUR ET DIRECTEUR DE LA “CHORALE DE LA JOIE” qui compte 500 choristes et il est très actif dans le domaine du dialogue islamo-chrétien
Women and the Syrian Protests: Chanel 4 BBC
“Journalist Alexander Page, who said he was with protesters who were marching from Damascus’ Midan neighborhood to Zahera, reported that he saw three people shot when security forces aimed into the crowd and
fired. Four buses carrying “regime thugs and riot police” had arrived on the scene, and security forces were stopping cars and beating people, Page said.
The wounded were picked up by security forces and taken away in buses, Page said.
He said a man on a motorbike filmed the faces of protesters as he drove past them. They chased and beat him, Page said.”
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Syrian academic and political activist Najib Ghadbain, who is also a member of the Syrian Opposition Consultative Council, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the Syrian opposition has “entered a new phase of operations, within the framework of preparing the Syrian youth for leadership following the collapse of the regime.”
Ghadbain attended the recent meeting of Syrian opposition groups in Istanbul earlier this week, and he stressed that “the objective of the previous meetings that were held in Turkey [e.g Anatalya summit] was merely to bring together Syrian political activists abroad to find a way of supporting the revolution and to allow the Syrian voices to be heard by international public opinion.”
He added “as for the Istanbul meeting, its objective is to bring together a large group of Syrian youth, from inside Syria and abroad, and prepare them [for rule], by enrolling them in intensive training courses focusing on several subjects, including legal issues, international relations, media, as well as defining concepts such as citizenship, minority rights, and others.”
He also stressed that “the Syrian youth activists require such training, for one of the jobs of repressive regimes is to kill the youth’s interests in politics” adding that “it is essential for the Syrian youth to gain these basic skills, particularly as a broad section of this youth will be leaders in the forthcoming stage; therefore it is our duty to prepare the youth in this regard.”
Ghadbain also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the youth who have undertaking these training courses will be working to share what they learn with their colleagues [who could not attend the summit], particularly as there is a lack of political awareness amongst the Syrian youth in general.” However Ghadbain acknowledged that the Syrian youth had “learnt a lot by organizing and participating in the demonstration [against the Syrian regime].” He added that “the forthcoming stage is extremely sensitive and we must be ready to meet any challenges.”
As for differences of opinion between the Syrian youth on the ground and the Syrian political opposition, Ghadbain said that “there can be no doubt that the Syrian elite, or the so-called more traditional Syrian political opposition, is not capable of leading the street protests. However both sides have recently discovered that they need one another, for the youth need the expertise of the traditional political opposition, whilst the opposition is in need of the youth’s enthusiasm.”
He also revealed that “the Istanbul meeting was held at the request of the youth, who wanted to develop themselves.”
Ghadbain stressed that “the [Syrian] opposition is seeking to show the world’s leaders that there is an alternative to the al-Assad regime that is capable of filling the vacuum in the forthcoming stage.” He added that “as for the rumors of the establishment or formation of an [opposition] national salvation or transitional government, there can be no doubt that we would support this when the time comes.”
The Libyan rebels’ military commander was killed by his comrades Huffington Post
while in custody after he was arrested by the opposition’s leadership on suspicion of treason, witnesses said Friday, in a sign of disarray that posed a major setback for the movement battling Moammar Gadhafi.
The slaying of Abdel-Fattah Younis raised fear and uncertainty in Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital. Thousands marched behind his coffin, wrapped in the rebels’ tricolor flag, to the graveyard for his burial, chanting that he was a martyr “beloved by God.” Troops fired a military salute as the coffin arrived, and angry and grieving supporters fired wildly into the air with automatic weapons.
At the graveside, Younis’ son, Ashraf, broke down, crying and screaming as they lowered the body into the ground and – in a startling and risky display in a city that was the first to shed Gadhafi’s rule nearly six months ago – pleaded hysterically for the return of the Libyan leader to bring stability.
“We want Moammar to come back! We want the green flag back!” he shouted at the crowd, referring to Gadhafi’s national banner.
Younis’ slaying appeared to shake both the rebels’ leadership body, the National Transitional Council, and its Western allies, who have heavily backed the rebels controlling most of eastern Libya.
Fighters from a rebel faction known as the February 17 Martyr’s Brigade came to the operations room and demanded Younis come with them for interrogation…. Younis trusted them and went alone.”… they killed him.”
The February 17 Martyrs Brigade is a group made up of hundreds of civilians who took up arms to join the rebellion. Their fighters participate in the front-line battles with Gadhafi’s forces but also act as a semi-official internal security force for the opposition. Some of its leadership comes from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an Islamic militant group that waged a campaign of violence against Gadhafi’s regime in the 1990s….
France’s Le Monde newspaper took a harsher view, warning that the rebels’ version of events “is hardly reassuring” and gives reason “to doubt the capacity of the council to exercise power.” “This risks reinforcing Tripoli’s hand,” Le Monde wrote.
One should always keep this statement in mind: “the Kurds always look upon Turkey with suspicion.” This consequently leads to: “The Turkish involvement in any issue leads to the Kurdish distancing from it.”
Substantiating such a conclusion might require plentiful evidence, but one cannot disregard the fact that Abdullah Ocalan, the Leader of Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey, lived in Turkey for years. This didn’t imply the proximity of Syria to the Kurds, because Damascus was reluctant to grant Syrian citizenship to northeastern Kurdish settlers and would only reconsider the matter in the face of the pressure of the current wave of demonstrations.
A conference hosting the adversaries of Bashar Assad, the Syrian Prime Minister, was held in Turkey some time ago with participants who ran the whole oppositional gamut. A similar meeting was due in Damascus and the two assemblies were supposed to nominate 75 people to the Syrian Transitory Council, similar to the Libyan Transitory National Council. The Damascus meeting was not held and 25 nominees were chosen in Istanbul. But this could not conceal the fragility of and the internal divisions among the Syrian regime’s opposition from sight.
The fact of some of the participants warning against the presence of the Islamist Majority (Akhvan al Moslemin) aside, the Kurdish figures decided to walk out of the meeting since they were against the phrase: the “Arabic” Republic of Syria. It lighted upon other oppositionists too that the cost of a consensus among all opposition groups exceeds their imagination. This discord came to a head when the Kurds hoisted Kurdistan’s flag in the Istanbul summit and in response to protests from others said that you, too, have raised the Turkish flag!
One of the causes of Syria’s Kurds continuing in their cooperation with the other opposition groups can be seen to be Turkey’s policy with regard to Syria’s revolts. From the very outset Turkey’s senior officials expressed their lack of patience with the slowness of the reforms process in Syria and voiced their extreme displeasure of suppressing the opposition. Every time the Syrian Presidency made a speech on the implementation of reforms, voices were heard from Ankara crying out that Bashar Assad is short of time and will have to capitulate to the demands of the opposition within a few days.
It goes without saying that the rigid and robust body of Syria’s politics has not exhibited much flexibility for reforms and softness against the demands of the opposition. Some trace this to internal disputes within the Syrian regime on the execution of reforms and contend that on the expansion of reforms Bashar Assad is facing greater pressure from internal opposition than the streets and public demonstrations.
According to reports the Syrian government is observing the developments in its Kurd-settled regions, especially in Qamishli, very keenly. There hasn’t been much conflict between the police and the military and the public in the Kurd-settled regions. Some negotiations have been made with the Kurdish parties, such as Kurdistan Workers’ Party – the Syrian branch, and the conclusion has been that the military wing of this party to take up security in Kurd-inhabited areas. This was a clear message to Turkey that Damascus, too, has some cards up its sleeves that it can play with inside Turkey.
Following Turkey’s blatant intervention in Syria, Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani, two Iraqi Kurdish leaders, vehemently supported Syria and Iraq’s Prime Minister also refused to go along with Turkey’s intervention and even signed an agreement to send 150,000 barrels of oil to diminish Syria’s economic plights and received a group consisting of 150 Syrian businessmen to strengthen the economic ties between the two countries. This comes at a time when only a while back Nouri Almaleki accused Syria of sending saboteurs and weapons into Iraq.
An important factor inside Turkey also deserves mention: the approximately 20 million Alawis who can’t bear to witness their government imposing pressure upon Syria’s Alawis. The continuation of the interventions of America, France, Turkey, and Qatar in Syria’s current issues might cause a rerun of the incidents of the city of Homs, but on a larger scale, a city which witnessed for the first time a religious conflict between the pro- and anti-government people where both sides attacked each other with firearms which claimed the lives of 30 people. This incident induced Syria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs to state that the national unity of his country has been targeted.
Militarily speaking, the entrance of the Syrian army into areas close to Turkey’s border, particularly Jisr al Shughour, is a step further than Syria’s internal incidents. Syria executed the “precipice” policy with regard to Turkey and sent special units of its army to its border with Turkey. Ankara’s calculations for inciting division and split in Syria’s army failed and Ankara gradually cut down on its propaganda assaults upon Syria. For the first time in 17 years Syria’s army entered into regions, which based on agreements with Turkey on Ocalan, were considered arms-free regions.
Based upon what was stated in propagandas and by some Arabic news networks, the Syrian regime deploys the Alawi units of its army to cleanse the border regions and the Fourth division of its Army has been dispatched to the border regions, but the reality is that the Fifteenth Division entered the fray, most of whose commander and soldiers are Sunni Syrians.
As was the case with Libya, not only Turkey, but also France will have to reconsider its policies towards Syria. Sarkozy was the first western Prime Minister to officially recognize the Libyan Transitional National Council and assumed the commandership of the assault against Gaddafi, but France’s Defense and Foreign Secretaries openly say that Gaddafi’s opponents should not expect a military triumph and should yield to a diplomatic solution instead. This solution, the responsibility of whose marketing has been bestowed upon the Representative of the United Nations Secretary General, has proved so shocking to the Gaddafi opposition that they have threatened to charge this international organization with failing to remain impartial in the Libyan crisis.
Daniel Levy, “America’s Attempted Quartet Sophistry,” Foreign Policy, July 22, 2011.
BILAL Y. SAAB AND NICHOLAS BLANFORD, “Seeing Red Along the Blue Line: Five years after the end of the Israel-Hezbollah war, both sides are furiously preparing for another round.” |JULY 29, 2011, FOREIGN POLICY