Friday, June 15, 2012

Al-Qaeda's Guiding Hand

Syrian rebels have begun to make impressive inroads into the country's capital.  Just as insurgents and terrorists in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq have successfully infiltrated areas of those country held to be secure, surprising authorities by their ability to evade detection, and succeeding in blowing up government buildings and people alike, so too have the rebels stealthily begun to access neighbourhoods in Damascus.

They attack army and security strongpoints.  Gun battles erupt with loyalist troops, as greater resources are now diverted from the provinces to protect Damascus.  If President al-Assad loses Damascus - which it looks increasingly likely will occur sooner or later - he loses the country.  In the effort to protect his capital urban warfare just as bloody and brutal as the attacks that have taken place in smaller cities where massacres have occurred with the shabiha militias following government troops will surely result.

The Republican Guards are there to do their part in protecting Iran's major ally in the region, alongside the Fourth Armoured division under the command of Maher al-Assad.  Which makes for a very interesting potential; the Republican Guard, Hezbollah and the regime's military on one side, facing off against the Muslim Brotherhood, the rebels and al-Qaeda factions on the other.  Each side determined to repulse the other with deadly force.

Army roadblocks around Damascus and supply lines are coming under attack by the rebels.  The shabiha that once patrolled the capital's neighbourhoods ensuring that no demonstrations took place under cover of night is no longer free to roam as they once were, without coming against the possibility of meeting a rebel-led assault. 

"I think we're heading to the point where the regime will be only in control of the most central parts of Damascus and the airport road.  It may be able to continue mounting raids on other districts, but it will not have real presence there", diagnosed an unidentified Western diplomat remaining in the city despite the closing of the embassies.  Perhaps as addicted to the deadly drama unfolding there as the embedded news hounds.

Rebels are now attacking buses full of shabiha militias brought in by the regime to quell protests.  Anti-aircraft guns and heavy mortar rounds continue to pound the districts where the rebels have retaken towns previously taken by the military, in a round of exchanges of captured territory.  

Back in Damascus, the population is becoming increasingly fed up with government actions.  They have no patience with the fierceness of the government's reaction to the protests that continue to mount.  The middle class in the city, inclusive of Sunni and Christians are losing their fear of the rebels and the imposition of an Islamist government in place of the current one.

The surrender of peace, order and a diminished economy has brought the population to a state of uneasy exasperation with the regime.  "So far the sentiment within the capital is anti-regime rather than anti-Alawite.  But this could change and we could see a more sectarian backlash as the crackdown intensifies" prophesied Julien Barnes-Dacey, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, who studied the situation on a visit to the Syrian capital.

This is not a situation that will have a comfortable conclusion.  As many that have perished, there will be many more.  Both the regime and the rebels have committed atrocities, although the greater preponderance of abductions/arrests, torture, imprisonment, and murder can be lain at the boots of the government.

As the chaos continues to mount in intensity, absorbing greater swaths of the country, the measures and countermeasures taken by the non-state militias that have entered the country representing the sectarian divide will produce a conflagration of unstoppable violence that may with certainty not end at Syria's borders.

Labels: ,

Follow @rheytah Tweet