Syria’s Opposition Develops into a Real Insurgency as Assad Uses More Force. Obama Refuses to Jump In
Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
The Candidates for Parliamentary Elections in Syria have been published – They reveal that Bashar al-Assad’s supposed reforms are the ruse that most thought they would be. The candidates from Latakia are sprinkled liberally with the names of well known crooks and Baathists of the region as well as their sons. There does not seem to be any potential reform going on in Latakia. The Baath may have been disestablished, but its members insist that they will win the upcoming elections to parliament.
A car bomb in Damascus outside the Iranian cultural center killed and wounded several Syrians. Rebels launched three separate attacks on security forces around Damascus on Tuesday, killing two ranking officers activists and state media said. Satellite images show that the roads going into Idlib are all manned by tanks and road blocks
Kofi Annan told the U.N. Security Council Thursday that the situation in Syria is “bleak” and expressed alarm at reports that government troops are still carrying out military operations in towns where U.N. observers are not present.
“If confirmed, this is totally unacceptable and reprehensible,” he said.
Annan told the U.N. Security Council that the situation in Syria remains “unacceptable” and is expressed particular alarm at reports that government troops entered the central city of Hama firing …
President Obama’s Speech on Syria at the Holocaust museum provoked an uproar from the neoconservatives who insist that the US should bomb Syria and do a Libya on it. Obama imposed some new sanctions on Syria but refused to give the green light to arming the opposition or taking military action. Tamara Cofman Wittes, who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs until January 2012, argued at Brookings that the Obama should not try to discourage the growing militarization of the Syrian opposition, but rather to step in a try to direct it toward the opposition members most likely to further US interests in the region.
This is precisely what the US seems to be doing. The model for its actions is Afghanistan of the 1980s, when Washington and Riyadh armed the Mujahedin to take down the pro-Soviet regime. Everyone in the Obama administration is acutely aware of the outcome of that successful campaign: the creation of al-Qaida. No one wants to repeat that. Hence, Clinton’s insistence that all foreign aid to the Syrian opposition go to Burhan Ghalioun. He looks to the ideals of the French Revolution rather than those of an Islamic revolution as did Bin Laden. Clinton even got the Saudis to publicly sign on to this strategy in Istanbul. where the last “Friends of Syria” meeting was assembled.
Recent reports on the Syrian opposition suggest that it is beginning to score some military successes. They also suggest that the regular pious youth who are doing the fighting are looking to Jihadists who fought in Iraq for their expertise. They will also likely look to the motivational power of radical Islamism, something they are going to need if they hope to defeat the Syrian Army.
News Round Up
Rare inside view of Syria’s rebels finds a force vowing to fight on
By David Enders | McClatchy Newspapers[photo: Mohamed Idris, shown in Qusayr, Syria, was the leader in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs of the Katiba Farouq, the largest group operating under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army. ]
QUSAYR, Syria — After more than six months of fighting, Syria’s largest rebel group appears to have developed into a resilient guerrilla force, unable perhaps to hold large swaths of territory for very long but still capable of inflicting heavy casualties on the Syrian military and operating fluidly within supportive populations….
What the Farouq fighters have found is that the Syrian army, as a force built for a potential conflict with Israel, is poorly equipped for the type of asymmetrical combat the guerillas engage in. That allows the guerillas to inflict heavy casualties on the military when the two sides engage in close combat. It is one reason the Syrian military prefers launching artillery attacks on rebel-held cities from long distances.
The rebels also have suffered heavy losses. Idris said he had 250 soldiers under his command during the fighting in Baba Amr, and that 114 of those had been killed in the fighting…..
“If the international community really wants peace in Syria, they will help us with weapons,” Idris said, making it clear the group was planning to step up attacks against the Syrian military. He said his fighters would continue to plant roadside bombs to destroy military vehicles outside of populated areas.
“We will attack the Syrian army in their bases and their checkpoints and try to capture their weapons,” he said. “We are also training fighters. We have many new volunteers without military experience.”….
More than a half-dozen fighters, when a reporter told them he had spent time reporting in Iraq, offered that they also had fought there during the U.S. invasion and occupation. Often, their first question was whether the reporter had visited Fallujah,…Last week, Farouq’s commanders were making preparations to expand their reach into the suburbs of Damascus, which are presently the domain of other rebel groups….
Lebanese terror leader Abdel Ghani Jawhar detonated himself accidentally in Syria, raising questions about the kind of company the rebels are keeping…
According to Abu Ali and another fellow fighter, Jawhar arrived in Qsair two weeks ago with a group of 30 Lebanese fighters. While many were members of Fatah al-Islam, they were not traveling under the terror group’s banner. Instead they called themselves mujahideen, holy warriors seeking to help fellow Muslims under attack by the Syrian regime. Jawhar, an explosives expert and a charismatic commander, sought to train fellow fighters how make bombs. In the short time he had been in Qsair, says Abu Ali, he was able to set up dozens of improvised explosive devices destined for members of the Syrian security forces. “His aim was to make a tour in all the districts of Syria to teach the fighters on how to fight a guerrilla war.”….
A 30-year-old biochemist from northern Lebanon, Jawhar came of age during the country’s brutal civil war. First he joined the Muslim Brotherhood, but left over doctrinal disputes—he felt that the group was not strict enough in its interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law. He then joined, and left, the extremely conservative Salafis for the same reasons, and finally became a member of Fatah al-Islam in 2008. He was promoted to leader after his predecessor was killed in a 2010 shootout with Lebanese security forces. According to the Lebanese intelligence official, he was a master recruiter, and even managed to induct Lebanese soldiers to his cause. His terror efforts spanned Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, where he is thought to be responsible for several of the devastating explosions that killed international troops. “He was a network by himself,” says the official. “He had relations all over the region; he was a ruthless killer.”…
It’ll be a cakewalk, says Ba’ath Party
2012-04-22 The Hindu:
Even though it is yet to announce candidates for the coming elections to the Syrian Parliament, the ruling Ba’ath Party predicts that it will return to power. “It is mathematically impossible for any other party to win,” claims Speaker Mahmoud …
VOA – Europe and US extend sanctions to include caviar and other luxury products
Luxury goods ban
Meanwhile, the European Union banned the sale to Syria of luxury goods and dual-use items that could be used for repression. The restrictions were adopted at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg Monday. The extent of the luxury ban has yet to be defined but the aim is to deliver a symbolic blow against the posh lifestyle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his British-born wife, Asma The dual-use goods could include anything from vehicles to fertilizers and other chemicals.
The United States announced Monday plans to impose technology sanctions on Syria and its ally, Iran. Meanwhile, Lynn Pascoe, the U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, told the 15-nation Security Council during an open debate on the Middle East that “the cessation of armed violence remains incomplete” in Syria.
On Monday’s “Special Report” on the Fox News Channel, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer attacked President Barack Obama’s Monday speech at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., where he announced the first meeting of …
I have an effective response: Deployment of the U.S. military to, at the very least, provide, as Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute urged:
- Safe corridors for Syrians to leave their country.
- Safe cities for civilians in which they can shelter.
- Arms for the Free Syrian Army, which is far better organized than many wish to admit.
- Overt support for the Syrian National Council, including
- assistance with a transition plan, reconciliation among parties, a new constitution and more.
- NATO air support.
That would approach doing “everything we can.”
Weekly Standard: Will Obama Help Syria?
Robert Zarate, writing in an FPI bulletin: In a high-profile speech today at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, President Obama highlighted new efforts to “prevent and respond to mass atrocities,” including a new Executive Order imposing …
Committee Hearings – The House Armed Service Committee and Senate Committee on Foreign Relations discussed the situation in Syria
From Washington – The Obama Administration explored new options in Syria after the ceasefire failedOn Thursday (4-19), the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the situation in Syria. The speakers were Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and General Martin Dempsey. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) chaired.On Thursday (4/19), the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing on U.S. policy options for Syria. The speakers were Murhaf Jouejati, Jon B. Alterman and Tamara Wittes. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) chaired.U.N. observers arrived in Damascus. Syrian forces shelled Homs. SANAreported two separate roadside bombs killing ten members of the security forces and a civilian.A German-owned ship, suspected of carrying weapons and ammunition heading to Syria, was towed for inspection to Turkey. Der Spiegel reported that the Atlantic Cruiser had been stopped with Iranian weapons on board. Violence ensued in a town outside of Damascus where opposition members reported two activists dead due to indiscriminate shelling. Syrian state-run media reported that the government was fully cooperating with Kofi Annan’s peace plan.
Bend Bulletin: In Syria, signs of Islamist influence
2012-04-23, By Liz Sly / The Washington Post
Activists and rebel soldiers based inside Syria say a small but growing number of Islamist radicals affiliated with global jihadi movements have been arriving in opposition strongholds in recent weeks and attempting to rally support among disaffected residents.
Western diplomats say they have tracked a steady trickle of jihadists flowing into Syria from Iraq, and Jordan’s government last week detained at least four alleged Jordanian militants accused of trying to sneak into Syria to join the revolutionaries.
A previously unknown group calling itself the al-Nusra Front has asserted responsibility for bombings in the cities of Damascus and Aleppo using language and imagery reminiscent of the statements and videos put out by al-Qaida-affiliated organizations in Iraq.
According to the BBC’s Ian Pannell reporting from northern Syria, helicopters have been firing at villages in Jabel al-Zawiya,
At a “Friends of Security” meeting, French President Nicolas Sarkozy accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of lying, while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for “stronger measures” to bolster the ceasefire, such as an arms embargo and the Chapter 7 Security Council Resolution allowing for the use of military force. Meanwhile the U.N. Security Council negotiated terms for the U.N. observer mission with Syria. The mission is permitted to travel to any location in the country by foot or car, but is not allowed control over a private aircraft. While there are currently seven monitors in Syria, the United Nations hopes to have 30 by Monday, and wishes to expand the mission to 300, which must be approved by the U.N. Security Council and Syria.
The Militarization of the Syrian Uprising
Samer Araabi | April 18, 2012 – Right Web
As pressure mounts to arm rebels in Syria, there is need for a sober assessment of the costs and consequences of the increasing militarization of the conflict there. If history is any guide, a foreign-backed armed rebellion will likely not produce the kind of victory—or engender the kind of support—that the anti-Assad fighters will require to usher in a new Syria. Additionally, there is the very real possibility that many of the rebels—as we’ve seen in Libya—will turn out to be little better than the regime they seek to replace….
… The United States cannot halt or reverse the militarization of the Syrian uprising, and should not try. What the United States can usefully do is manage this militarization by working with other governments, especially Syria’s neighbors in the region, to try to shape the activities of armed elements on the ground in a manner that will most effectively increase pressure on the regime – to drain the Syrian military’s ability and will to fight, to help induce a political transition, and thereby to bring an end to the violence as quickly as possible. Without a strong lead driven by the strategic logic of weakening the regime’s pillars, disparate actors both inside and outside the region could provide lethal support in ways that would exacerbate spillover effects and increase the damage militarization will cause to the goal of restoring order in a post-Assad Syria. To do this, the United States should drive the international planning and engagement necessary to identify key armed leaders and elements, improve coordination and communication, build effective fighting units, and shape an effective insurgent strategy.
Kurds: Salih Gado, member of the politburo of the Kurdish Left Party in Syria: »Some Kurdish parties are coming up with lots of excuses to avoid joining the Syrian National Council. The truth is they are still afraid of the regime.«
The Kurdish Issue and Syria’s Democracy
by Hassan Saleh [Hassan Saleh is the deputy secretary of the Kurdish Yekiti Party in Syria and a member of the Kurdish National Council and former political prisoner.]
At a moment of uncertainty surrounding the relationship between the Kurdish National Council (KNC) and the Syrian National Council (SNC), this week’s article by KNC member Hassan Saleh affirms the Kurdish desire for a decentralized federal democracy and their critical role in the future success of the Syrian revolution.
I believe that the federal system is the best way for internal peaceful coexistence. This allows for all peoples and minorities to enjoy their rights and preserve their identities and existence. Federalism is considered a guarantor system for the unity of the state and a way to boost the state’s development and stability….
In Syria, there are contiguous Kurdish areas that the Kurdish community can manage as their own federal region by managing their own legislative, judicial, and executive affairs, but participating in federal authorities, institutions, and councils according to the proportion of their population. If other communities choose to select federalism, it is possible to establish other provinces as well. The Druze reside in al-Sweida province, surrounding the capital city and Jabal al-Sheikh. The Alawites are particularly concentrated in the coastal areas, though there are a number of Sunnis living among them in cities such as Latakia, Banias, and Tartous. The (Christian) Assyrians and Syriacs are spread throughout most of the regions and do not form large contiguous areas. Accordingly, the adoption of a federal system will achieve the wishes of the Syrian people in getting rid of the dominance of the central authoritarian regime and providing real opportunities for the territories to develop their lives and enjoy their share of power and wealth.
It must be noted that due to their bitter experience, the Kurds are determined to manage their own affairs as their interest is in maintaining Syria’s unity. Kurdish nationalism should be respected and the resolution of this issue is considered to be the key to democracy and a guarantee of stability. The Kurdish regions are rich in oil, gas, and agricultural crops, particularly grains and olives, and it is unfair that the central government has taken hold of them while the Kurdish people live poor, deprived, and homeless….
A video appeal to the wife of Syrian President Bashar Assad asks her to persuade her husband to stop the killing. The campaign for Asma al Assad to “stand up for peace” was started by the wives of British and German ambassadors to the United …
Counter-revolution — the next deadly chapter in the Arab Spring. (h/t War in Context)
by News Sources on April 21, 2012
Robert Fisk writes: It was my old Jordanian-Palestinian chum Rami Khouri who first spotted what is going on in the Middle East right now: it’s the counter-revolution. Bahrain is crushing dissent. Syria is crushing dissent. Mubarak’s former head of intelligence, the sinister Omar Suleiman, is standing for president in Egypt – the cancellation of his candidacy last week by a dodgy “electoral committee” may well be overturned. Libya is at war with itself. Yemen has got its former dictator’s sidekick back. Sixty-one dead in a battle between soldiers and al-Qa’ida last week – in a single day. All in all, a pretty mess.
But let me quote Khouri. “In Washington-speak, a ‘crisis’ is like love: you can define it any way you want, but you know when it happens to you. So a popular revolt in Bahrain for full civil rights is a crisis that must be crushed by force. But a revolt in Syria is a blessed event that deserves support. Similarly, this peculiar mindset warns against Iranian support to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, while accepting as perfectly logical and legitimate for the US and its allies to send arms and money to their favourite rebel groups around the region – not to mention attacking entire countries…”
And there you have it. As Khouri notes, there’s now a new group called the “Security Cooperation Forum” linking the US with the Gulf Cooperation Council. La Clinton turned up to assure the oil states of Washington’s “rock solid and unwavering commitment” to the GCC. Now where have we heard that before? Why, isn’t that what Obama is always saying to the Israelis? And weren’t Bibi Netanyahu of Israel and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia the two guys who called Obama to ask him to save Mubarak.
And in Syria – where the Qataris and the Saudis are all too keen to send weapons for the rebels – things are not going very well for the revolution. After claiming for weeks a year ago that “armed bands” were attacking government forces, the bands now exist and are well and truly attacking Assad’s legions. For many tens of thousands who were prepared to demonstrate peacefully – albeit at the cost of their lives – this has become a disaster. Syrian friends of mine call it a “tragedy”. They blame the Gulf states for encouraging the armed uprising. “Our revolution was pure and clean and now it’s a war,” one of them said to me last week. I believe them.
Tweet America is heading into an increasingly tumultuous decade in the Middle East, punctuated by repeated popular uprisings that will continue to dismantle long-standing power structures in the region, according to the Pentagon’s top uniformed …
Rana writes: I recently reviewed two Syrian films that were screened at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown. I can’t speak highly enough about the films. Revolving around prisoners of conscience, they are an important window for understanding the unfortunate circumstances the country now finds itself in. Here’s the link:
Brookings: Turkey: The New Model?
The following is a chapter written by Ömer Taşpınar from the book, The Islamists Are Coming: Who They Really Are, co-published by the Wilson Center and the U.S. Institute of Peace. In the twenty-first century, Turkey is arguably …