Thursday, July 26, 2012

Abandoning The Ship Of State

The regime of President Bashar al-Assad has sprung innumerable holes, out of which leak an increasingly impressive number of his former stalwarts, the elite of his entourage.  The Alawite regime had the good sense to cultivate wealthy and influential Sunni Syrians to join them in administering the affairs of the country; in the military, in the diplomatic corps, in the executive ranks.

Those Sunnis of high rank and influence have found it bitter gall to witness the regime's violent assaults against their own.  Ironically, Bashar al-Assad's wife is also a Sunni Muslim, her father originally from the hub of the initial protests.  She has not abandoned her husband, nor does it seem likely she will.  It would be interesting to know how her father feels about that.

The Syrian Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Abd Allaltif Dabai, has joined the opposition.  Unsurprisingly perhaps, since his wife, the Syrian Ambassador to Cyprus, Lamyaa Hariri had defected a day earlier.  They are both now in Qatar.  Lamyaa Hariri is the niece of Vice President Farouq al-Shara'a, occupying a largely ceremonial role in the Alawite regime.  Made for good optics.

These defections followed those of the Ambassadors to Iraq and Belarus, along with another elite diplomat, Nawaf al-Fares.  The Syrian Ambassador to Iraq is another Sunni figure from eastern Syria, who defected to Qatar through Jordan.  "From now, I support the Syrian revolution.  Where is the honour in killing your own people?  Where is national unity?  Loyalty is to the people, not to a murderous dictator."

And of course Brigadier-General Manaf Tlas, another member of Syria's Sunni Muslim majority fled Damascus into France.  French President Francois Hollande called upon the Syrian army to denounce the crimes committed by Assad's forces, to leave them and to join the opposition.  A military attache at the Syrian embassy in Oman; Mohammed Tahseen al-Faqir has also defected.

Reports out of Aleppo, the country's largest city and the heart of its economy, are that the regime has rushed reinforcements to battle the insurgents to regain complete control of the city.  The opposition has basic arms, while the regime has far more sophisticated weapons for a completely unequal equation in fire power.  But the opposition is determined not to lose what they have gained.

A loss in Aleppo at this juncture could set them back considerably.

Neighbourhoods in the city are being unmercifully pounded by government artillery, mortars and helicopter gunfire.  There were reports that fixed-wing aircraft were firing on the city as well.  Along with multiple reports of additional reinforcements marching toward Aleppo.   Thousands of troops are surging toward the city, with the rebels being pounded from the air in total warfare.

Reports have emerged that a Syrian Christian artist, Wael Issa Kaston died under torture, murdered by government security forces.  He had been detained by a security branch in Homs.  His family received his body from a military hospital in Homs, and large crowds paid homage to him, taking part in his funeral from the town of Marmarita and neighbouring villages.

Troops were being withdrawn from the highlands in Idlib province near the Turkish border, heading toward Aleppo.  Rebels began an attack at the rear of the troops.  While in Aleppo missiles were being fired from helicopters and opposition rebels battling government forces at the gates of the historic old city.  Troops firing mortars and shells at rebels, armed with rifles and machine guns.

"Almost everyone has fled in panic, even my family", reported one man by telephone.  "I have stayed to try to stop the looters; we hear they often come after an area is shelled."  Some residents insist fixed-wing jets have dropped bombs on the city; a correspondent for Britain's BBC television agreed the jets had fired.

It is now widely acknowledged that no amount of reason, nor recommendations to attempt to settle the conflict will make any impact on either President al-Assad nor the opposition who are determined to finally unseat him and bring their revolution to a completion.  There are large concerns that the conflict may yet spiral outside the borders of the country and draw in sectarian disagreements elsewhere.

And the element of suspense around the disposition of Syria's large store of chemical weapons remains hanging.  Statements regarding those non-conventional chemical and biological weapons have been less than reassuring, coming from the regime.  Fears that they may be leaking over the border and into the hands of others have not been assuaged.

Labels: , ,

Follow @rheytah Tweet