Friday, July 27, 2012

Again And Again

The world watches, aghast, as Syria's President Bashar al-Assad sticks to his helicopter gunships, his artillery, his tanks, with strict instruction to his generals to wipe out the opposition that has entrenched itself within Aleppo.  And once there are enough corpses to satisfy the need to believe that the insurrection has been halted, the Shabiha can do their part, as they've done elsewhere, going door to door in enclaves believed to shelter the rebels, rooting them out; the armed and unarmed civilians alike.

As for the rebels, proud of what they have accomplished, most particularly their amazingly daring coup, having been capable of penetrating the very innermost secure areas of Damascus, to set explosives to eliminate President al-Assad's military inner circle (presumably saving his brother for another opportunity), they have withdrawn, wisely under the circumstances of superior firepower and troops, to reassemble in Aleppo.

The rebels are spoken of as a united opposition and they are not, representing instead an assortment of disaffected ideological cabals all of whom share a hatred for the Alawite regime, most of whom share little else but a wish to rid the country of President al-Assad and his ruling entourage.  Infiltrated among the disparate groups the largest of which appears to be the Muslim Brotherhood, are also Salafists, rabid Islamists of all types, including members of al-Qaeda.

So, what will be accomplished with the ouster of President al-Assad, other than chaos and a settling of scores when the fanatical Sunni gain the upper hand and look for revenge?  The result will be a mass slaughter of those who fear the downfall of Bashar al-Assad and his protection of the Kurds, the Druze, the Christian Syrians.  Their support for the regime alone will mark them as enemies of the opposition.

Their ethnic, religious, tribal differentiation in addition will mark them for elimination by the advancing Sunni religious extremists for whom deviations from what they consider the only acceptable religious norm represents an abomination to Islam.  They have not, even though they all aspire to remove the regime, seen fit to co-ordinate their efforts, their resources, their aspirations.  They suspect one another's motivations and possibly for good reason.

Brigadier General Manaf Tlas, once a close friend of President al-Assad, part of his trusted inner circle, and one of the most senior defectors, claims to be determined to unite the fragmented opposition within and without Syria to prepare a roadmap for the transfer of power.  "I am discussing with ... people outside Syria to reach a consensus with those inside", he confided to the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.
"I left [Syria] ... to try to help the best I can to unite the honourable people inside and outside Syria to set out a road map to get Syria out of this crisis.  I realize this is a difficult phase...  It's difficult for one person to bear the responsibility of such a phase.  A group (including opposition) from inside and outside Syria should co-operate to accomplish this phase."

Thus far squabbles between the various ideologies represented in the Syrian National Council have demonstrated they are unable to agree between themselves, much less have much of an impact on the militias calling themselves the Free Syrian Army, themselves incapable of co-ordinating.  The need for a transitional administration as a stopgap government if Bashar al-Assad is toppled is paramount.

But the international community no longer looks to the presumed legitimacy of the Syrian National Council.  The factions within have been unable to agree on leadership goals and priorities.  They have made little effort to reach out to minorities in an inclusive in-gathering.  The various Syrian opposition groups quite simply feel no compulsion to cohesion as a practical first step.

As the international face of the revolution, it has failed to garner even the respect of the Free Syrian Army. The SNC has disillusioned their international interlocutors by their inability to demonstrate "altruism, reaching out to others, broadening the base....  They've not been able to" demonstrate those qualities.  "'s all about egos, who gets to shine, who gets the senior position", according to one European diplomat.

"If you ask the question, 'Is there more they could have done to be effective, the answer should be an emphatic yes'."  Meanwhile, the practical measures undertaken within the war zone that Syria has become, with the rebels exploiting the "narrow streets of the old city, where the regime cannot use its tanks, and industrial areas, where we can find many places of shelter", describes the new strategy on the ground.

The Free Syrian Army rebels are battling in several areas of Aleppo, including the world heritage site of the Old City.  A defector from the regular army, now fighting with the rebels, Gen. Manaf al-Filistini, has predicted a months-long guerrilla war in Aleppo.  "Aleppo is very strategic for the regime and they will not give it up.  We have to fight rolling battles with shifting targets.  They will send additional forces again and again."

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