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    Middle East
     Dec 9, '13

How Syria's movement was hijacked
By Nicola Nasser

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

Holding the Syrian government responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Syria as a casus belli for foreign military intervention under the UN 2005 so-called "responsibility to protect" initiative was the goal of the US-led "Friends of Syria" coalition from the very start of the conflict.

Foreign military intervention is now ruled out, but what the Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin described on November 29 as "the biggest humanitarian crisis in a decade" was created, and this crisis "is worsening and no end is in sight", as the International Federation

of Red Cross and Red Crescent said on November 11.

Objective and non-objective as well as official and non-official reports about the responsibility of the Syrian government are abundant, but the true nature of the insurgents has been for too long covered up and only of late come under the scrutiny of human-rights organizations and media.

The early militarization of civilian protests in Syria aborted all prospects for a long overdue peaceful change, creating the largest humanitarian crisis in the world today.

Militarization opened the Syrian doors wide for foreign military, intelligence and political intervention, turning a national conflict between the haves and have-nots into a regional and international one.

More importantly, grudgingly but knowingly the so-called "Friends of Syria" also opened the Syrian doors to al-Qaeda linked offshoots, as an additional weight to enforce a "regime change". In no time they hijacked the armed leadership of the marginal local armed insurgency and became the dominant military power, way out of the control of the intervening regional and international powers who financed, armed and logistically facilitated their infiltration into Syria.

The responsibility of the "Friends of Syria", both Arab and non-Arab, for the militarization and the ensuing humanitarian crisis, was highlighted by the US former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's call on Syrian rebels last July for them not to disarm. It is also seen in the Turkish, Saudi and Qatari opposition to a political solution through the upcoming Geneva-2 conference on January 22.

When the United States last December added al-Nusra Front to its list of terrorist organizations, topped by al-Qaeda, supposedly to tip the balance in favor of what is called in US terminology, the "moderates" against the terrorists in the Syrian insurgency, it was a measure taken too late.

The US measure was only a green light for the beginning of another war inside the Syrian war, this time launched by The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Da'ash) against all others in the insurgency, including al-Nusra Front.

The end result was further exacerbation of the Syrian humanitarian crisis, for which the United States and partner "friends" could not be absolved of responsibility.

The militarization of legitimate peaceful protests has created the largest humanitarian crisis in the world and it is worsened by the military tactics the insurgents use.

These tactics include mortar shelling of densely populated areas under government control, targeting public services infrastructure, dismantling and stealing public and private factories, and interrupting or cutting transportation and traffic- as well as extrajudicial killings and public beheadings.

There has also been suicide bombings in city centers, the targeting and besieging of minorities, destruction and desecration of religious and historic relics and flooding Syria with tens of thousands of foreign mercenary fighters obsessed by bizarre interpretations of Islam.

Exploiting the fact that the regular army was deployed along some 70 miles (112 kilometers) of the ceasefire line for a confrontation with the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on the Syrian Golan Heights and trained for a regular warfare, their strategic military tactic was from the start to entrench themselves among the civilian population, using them as human shields, in countryside towns and villages where the army has no presence and where even the police and security agencies maintain minimal presence or none at all.

The early successes of the insurgents were military exploits against peaceful civilians; they were not achieved in military versus military battles. It was enough for a few rebels to hold any such peaceful town or village hostage, but it needs an army operation to kick them out.

Except for the northern city of ar-Raqqah, which Da'ash turned into what the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar in November defined as "Syria's answer to (Afghanistan's) Kandahar - the birthplace of the Taliban" since the rebels stormed the city early last March, the Syrian state maintains control and presence in all the major cities.

But the official Arab Syrian Army had been on the defensive for some two years since the eruption of the insurgency in 2011. It needed this time to adapt, train and allocate counter insurgency units to fight in irregular city wars.

Since its strategic victory in al-Qaseer early last June it has gone on the offensive and is rapidly gaining more ground and achieving successive successes ever since.

However, the insurgency bears the main responsibility, mainly during the "defensive" interval, for the civilian plight; waves of refugees and displaced people came out from the areas under their control to find refuge either in government held cities or across the nearest borders with neighboring states. The latest largest wave of refugees of the Syrian Kurds into northern Iraq had nothing to do with government and was caused by infighting among insurgents.

The fact that the Syrian state and government were reacting rather than acting against the insurgency is now coming to light. This fact is explained better by the UK-based opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which reported on this December 3 that it had documented the death of (50,927) government soldiers versus (36,228) insurgents including (6,261) non-Syrian fighters.

Rebel infiltration into countryside towns and villages was the main reason for more than two million internally displaced civilians who left their homes as soon as they could out of fear either of the rebels themselves and their practices or the inevitable government retaliation. They were taken care of by the government in government shelters.

In addition to Christians and other minorities targeted by the rebels who posture as the defenders of Sunni Islam, most of the refugees and those displaced are Sunni Muslim Syrians and more than one million of them are hosted by their compatriot Alawites in the west of the country, a fact that refutes the narrative of the US government and media about a "civil" and "sectarian" war in the country.

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.

Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. nassernicola@ymail.com

(Copyright 2013 Nicola Nasser)

Fierce battles cast hopeful shadow in Syria (Dec 4, '13)

Syrian refugee relief effort Islamicized
(Dec 4, '13)



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