Chuck Spinney: Syria, Rebels, Complexity and Foreign (Uninformed) Meddling….Hark Back to Viet-Nam, Central America, Afghanistan….

04 Inter-State Conflict, 05 Civil War, 07 Other Atrocities
Chuck Spinney

According the attached report in the 3 October issue of the New York Times, defections from Assad’s army to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have slowed to a trickle. No major units have defected. The FSA has resulted to trickery and coercion to gain recruits, including drugging and kidnapping.

Moreover, rebel tactics, like suicide bombing and murdering captured soldiers, are beginning to alienate the people.

Also, there is no evidence that rebel forces have materially weakened Assad’s army. The Syrian army has changed tactics to rely more on artillery and bombing to strike from a distance and thus preserve its own forces.

All good info, but then the report concludes with at curious statement that the Syrian civil war as transformed from a struggle against a dictator into sectarian war that is being stoked by foreign meddling. This is a very superficial and, I believe, misleading conclusion. It smacks of apologia. The Syrian civil war has always been far more complex than that portrayed by the mainstream media like the NYT. Secular, Jihadi, and foreign influence have been part of this war from the git go. Almost all of the rebel forces are Sunnis, for example. The other ethnic groups have not joined the revolt. Readers interested in a more balanced and nuanced view of this incredibly complex civil war should read the report Syrian Jihadism attached here in pdf format.

By KAREEM FAHIM and HWAIDA SAAD, New York Times, 3 October 2012

ANTAKYA, Turkey — For months, the disparate militias known as the Free Syrian Army relied on defections from the Syrian military to lead a credible if halting challenge to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Every day seemed to bring word of new recruits. Soldiers fled in packs, or officers stole across a border, lifting the rebels’ morale while swelling their ranks.  But now opposition commanders say defections have slowed to a trickle. Some commanders have given up trying to entice defectors, and others have resorted to more desperate measures: cajoling, duping, threatening and even drugging and kidnapping military men to get them to change sides, or at least stay out of the fight. Without defections, they say, the opposition cannot hope to grow, never mind prevail.

“We use means only used by the devil,” said Ahmed Qunatri, a rebel commander in northern Syria who defected from the Republican Guard.  As Syria’s fighting burns into its 19th month, Mr. Assad’s forces have moved effectively to cut off what amounts to the armed rebellion’s most significant resource: soldiers with training and weapons who change sides.   In a shift in strategy, the government has preferred to attack towns and neighborhoods from a distance using artillery and air power, preserving its resources and distancing its soldiers from rebel fighters — and from the public, including friends and neighbors, who might encourage defections.  Some rebel commanders now fret that all the soldiers who were inclined to defect already have. The rest remain loyal to the government, or are terrified of betraying it. Others are just suspicious of an armed movement that has found extremists among its ranks.

Read full article.

See Also:

2012-09-14 Syrian Jihadism