Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Armed defenders of Syria's revolution

Nir Rosen discusses instances of armed clashes between Syrian army defectors and pro-Assad security forces.

Nir Rosen

"While outsiders debate when or if the Syrian opposition will turn to arms, on the ground it is clear that elements of the opposition have used violence against the security forces from early in the uprising in response to the regime's harsh crackdown.

Over a period of seven weeks, from July to September, I spent time among the many factions in the strugle for Syria. It is a conflict fought on the streets and in the media. For the most part, unarmed opposition activists seeking the overthrow of the regime have used demonstrations as their guerrilla tactic. The regime has succeeded in containing or suppressing the opposition, limiting the times and places they can demonstrate. The opposition has failed to expand its constituency outside the Sunni majority or even to win over the Sunni bourgeois of Damascus and Aleppo. Sectarian hatred grows on both sides, leading to early signs of communal violence. At the same time, a more professional and organised armed opposition movement has emerged.....

The effectiveness of such small scale hit-and-run attacks is not clear. Opposition members feel they have been pushed to violence by a brutal regime that shows itself incapable of or unwilling to fulfill its promises of reform. However, this level of opposition violence cannot overthrow the regime. It does allow the regime to justify its narrative of fighting armed groups. In addition, it allows foreign backers of the regime, such as Russia, to justify their intransigent support for it. Insiders in the Russian foreign ministry maintain that Syria is in a civil war, with two sides fighting, and not just a government killing unarmed demonstrators. Instead the Russians maintain that both sides provoke each other and respond with violence.....

What may have also provoked security forces was a significant victory for the defecting officers. In late September, opposition fighters from Homs captured a Syrian Army colonel. The colonel is an Alawite originally from the area of Qardaha, the town in Latakia from where the Assad family originates, and indeed is a distant relative of the president. The opposition fighters hoped to exchange him for their own captured officers, including Hussein Harmoush. The capture was also confirmed by a source in the security forces."

No comments: