Syria: The Ally You Cannot Afford

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May 17, 2012: The government is claiming that the growing armed resistance is due to foreigner fighters, which is partly true. Islamic terror groups have been moving in from Iraq and Lebanon. But most of the resistance is from armed locals.

There are about 200 UN observers in the country so far, and they are seeing the government become increasingly violent against actual or suspected opponents. The observers often come under fire and several times have had to seek safety with rebel fighters. Soldiers are more likely to open fire at protests or even funerals and other gatherings. In 14 months of unrest over 12,000 people have died.  Since the UN arranged ceasefire began on April 12, over a thousand have died, most of them civilians.

The UN ceasefire/observer program is a failure but the UN will delay admitting that until UN officials try to come up with another plan. That may take a while, as Russia still promises to veto any Security Council resolution against the Assads. The EU (European Union) is planning more sanctions while the Turks continue providing sanctuary for Syrian refugees and rebel organizations. More ominously, Turkey now talks of invoking the NATO mutual defense treaty if Syria continues to fire across the border at refugees, smugglers, and Syrian rebels. While Turkey has sufficient military power to take down the Assad dictatorship, such an operation will go down better with local Arabs (who are still bitter over centuries of brutal Turkish rule, which ended in 1918) if it is done as part of a coalition like NATO. Gulf Arab states are already covertly aiding the rebels and would mute their protests (in the name of "Arab solidarity") if Turkish troops entered Syria. Meanwhile, Iranian security advisors continue to push for greater efforts to find and kill the rebel leaders. The problem with that solution (which has worked in Iran) is that the Syrian revolution is too widespread and lacks strong central leaders. In other words, there are too many leaders to go after. Thus the Assads are moving towards just using as much terror as possible. The only problem there is the dubious loyalty of most of the troops (who are Sunnis). The Assads may have to abandon parts of the country in order to concentrate sufficient loyal troops to run these terror operations (which means sending a lot of troops into a town or city neighborhood to find weapons and rebels and shoot anyone who does not cooperate). So far the Assads have been losing slowly. More Assad supporters are making preparations to flee a total collapse. This sort of thing is widely known in Syria and helps keep the revolution (and continuing demonstrations) going.  

Islamic terror groups in Lebanon and Iraq (including al Qaeda) are increasingly active in Syria. Many in the mainline rebel FSA ( Free Syrian Army) are not happy with this. Syria has, for decades, been a sanctuary for Arab and Islamic terror groups (who could stay as long as they did no violence in Syria). This was not popular with a lot of Syrians (as the terrorists killed a lot of people in neighboring countries). But, at the same time, the terror attacks on the government are more powerful than anything the FSA has been able to pull off. The downside is that Islamic terrorists kill lots of civilians. While many of these civilians are government supporters it still makes for bad publicity. Worse, the Islamic terror groups will expect to be rewarded (with sanctuary, at least) after the revolution is won. A new rebel government would be under tremendous pressure from all other nations to drive out the Islamic terrorists. In other words, the Islamic terrorists are the ally you cannot afford.

The FSA is also split into factions, mainly because armed resistance groups are largely restricted to areas where they formed (from army deserters and volunteers) and continue to operate. The government makes it increasingly difficult to travel long distances and men of military age who "look suspicious" are often arrested. Arms smugglers are making a lot of money moving weapons and ammo around but this is a high risk operation. While the smugglers don't suffer a lot of casualties they often have to abandon a cargo when detection and arrest seems likely.

Despite the arms embargo Iran and Russia are still getting weapons into Syria. Israeli and NATO naval forces are constantly seeking out ships trying to sneak weapons into Syria. This makes it more difficult but weapons and ammunition are still getting in.

May 15, 2012: For the last three days the Syrian civil war has been fought in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. There Sunni Arab militias supporting the rebels have fought with Alawite militias backing the Assad dictatorship. Government forces finally arranged (and imposed) a ceasefire but only after nine were killed and over a hundred wounded.

May 11, 2012: In Aleppo security forces discovered and prevented a car bomb attack from reaching its target.  One policeman was killed in the accompanying gun battle. Another car bomb attack was aborted completely.

May 10, 2012: In the capital two large car bombs were set off near government offices, killing 55 and wounding hundreds. An Islamic terror group took credit.

May 9, 2012: The U.S. State Department has warned Americans to be careful if visiting Lebanon because the violence in Syria is spilling over.

 

 

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