[Marxism] NATO Liberation Bombing draws nearer in Syria -- Free Syrian Army seeks no-fly zone, naval blockade

Fred Feldman ffeldman at verizon.net
Wed Oct 5 09:12:35 MDT 2011


The following four news items show the slow but steady progress toward a
Libya-style NATO war of liberation against Syria, although the
Chinese-Russian use of their veto power is an obstacle that did not exist
last time. Of course, it may not last this time.\

 

However, we should keep in mind that NATO can take such action on its own,
if the will exists to do so.

 

Nothing I have seen so far indicates that the imperialist powers have
concluded that their war in Libya was a stupid mistake or something of that
sort, Overall, their position seems to have been strengthened somewhat by
the Libya war thus far.

 

If the war comes and is similarly successful in Syria - all of which remains
to be seen - I think the next target for a bnildup toward Liberation Bombing
would mostly likely be Iran. I doubt that they are ready to stand the flak
that would come with going to Venezuela instead.

Fred Feldmahn

Fred Feldman

 

1.SYRIA OPPOSITION UNITES LEADERSHIP

By Abigail Fielding-Smith

Financial Times (London)

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/130a9960-ed0f-11e0-be97-00144feab49a.html#axz
z1ZsMIlubu

Syria's disparate and fractious opposition announced a credible united
leadership structure for the first time on Sunday at a meeting in
neighboring Turkey.

 

Burhan Ghalioun, a Paris-based sociologist popular with anti-government
protesters inside Syria, read a statement to reporters in Istanbul on behalf
of the Syrian National Council (SNC), saying it was dedicated to "achieving
the wishes and hopes of our people in overthrowing the current regime."

 

The political opposition to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in exile
has been under increasing pressure to unite from anti-government protesters
facing a crackdown which the U.N. says has claimed at least 2,700 lives.

 

Although the SNC itself was announced last month, many important forces in
the opposition, including Mr. Ghalioun, had not joined it until Sunday.

 

"The world has been waiting for this alternative for a while, they wanted an
alternative that includes the majority of opposition forces, and today we
got exactly that," said Yaser Tabbara, a member of the SNC's general
assembly.

 

Mr. Tabbara said the assembly agreed on a 29-member secretariat, whose
members will include Kurds, the Muslim Brotherhood, the traditional
opposition to the regime represented by the Damascus Declaration group, and
representatives of youth activists inside Syria.

 

The announcement of the SNC's formation came as Syrian authorities claimed
victory in a battle with armed opponents of the regime in the central town
of Rastan over the past few days.

 

State media said "stability and calm" had been restored after a campaign
which the regime claims was fought against "terrorist groups"

but which activists say was fought against soldiers who had defected from
the regime.

 

According to Wissam Tarif, the loss of the town was likely to puncture the
belief that defected soldiers battling government forces could bring the
regime down.  "Rastan has proven how much it is not sustainable because
there's no political push behind it," said Mr.

Tarif.

 

In the coming days, the secretariat will nominate a seven-member executive
body, said Mr Tabbara, among whom leadership of the council will rotate.

 

Wissam Tarif, a researcher with the campaign group Avaaz, said the council's
first challenges would be to secure funding and international recognition,
and to come up with a credible transition plan, at a time when faith in
peaceful protests alone as a tool for bringing down the regime is
diminishing.

 

"They need to come up with a transition plan," said Mr Tarif.  "They need to
tell the Syrian people how its going to happen."

 

Mr. Ghalioun said the council was against foreign intervention, but Mr
Tabbara said that position would not necessarily preclude the establishment
of a no-fly zone, which some activists have begun to call for.

 

 

2.CAN SYRIAN OPPOSITION UNITE?

By Zoe Holman

** Questions raised about landmark council's ability to bring together
activists inside and outside the country. **

 

Institute for War & Peace Reporting

October 3, 2011

http://iwpr.net/report-news/can-syrian-opposition-unite

or

Asia Times Online

October 5, 2011

 

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MJ05Ak02.html

While its members hail the formation of an Syrian anti-regime assembly as
the biggest effort to date to form a representative body for activists,
analysts say it is still unclear whether this will succeed in uniting a
long-divided opposition.

 

Leaders of the 140-member Syrian National Counsel, SNC, formed during a
September 15 opposition meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, say it reflects an
unprecedented level of coordination.

 

"This attempt is unique," Yaser Tabbara, a United States-based lawyer and
member of the steering committee of the SNC, said.  "It is the most
systematic, scientific effort to form an opposition that is united and
independent at its very core.

 

"People who have been divided for over 50 years have decided to put
politicking aside and work on creating a neutral platform, without baggage
or personal ambition."

 

Opponents of the Syrian regime have launched a number of attempts at
creating a formal representative body since the uprising began in March,
most of which have been thwarted by geographical or long-standing political
and ideological divisions among members.

 

The SNC is the first body of its kind to include major representation from
the local coordination committees, LCCs, the main groups driving the protest
on the ground in Syria, who will make up around 60% of its members.  The SNC
also includes exiled representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and
signatories to the 2005 Damascus Declaration, a landmark statement of unity
by opposition members.

 

"The members are well-recognized and have excellent relationships inside and
outside Syria," Tabbara said.  "The fact that this process of negotiation
has been three months in the making indicates the most mature and advanced
effort [so far]."

 

The SNC is currently meeting once again in Istanbul to elect its formal
leadership, but with continuing uncertainty over the makeup and aims of the
council, some commentators are skeptical about the opposition's ability to
overcome divisions.

 

"I am not sure in the end how different this council is," Salwa Ismail,
politics professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London,
said.  "It is already contested, with different groups on the ground and
abroad saying it is not representative."

 

Some leading figures of the opposition-in-exile old guard, such as Michel
Kilo, who heads the National Committee for Democratic Change, are indeed not
included on the recently released list of members.

 

But while the SNC lacked support from some central groups when first
launched in August, its membership has since grown to include several key
groups including the Syrian Revolution General Commission, which had
initially declined to endorse it.

 

With the exception of a few public figures, the Syrian internal opposition
remains largely faceless but well-organized.  By contrast, the opposition
abroad is rife with division.

 

"The problem right now is that we have groups outside who don't know each
other, with a history of division spanning 40-50 years in which all
activists were persecuted ruthlessly by the regime," Ismael said.

"Almost 100,000 political prisoners were taken over this period and the
regime led a successful campaign in dividing people and generating mistrust.
It takes a long time to overcome that."

 

But with human-rights groups estimating that the civilian death toll from
the conflict has exceeded 3,000, and with a transition to democracy by the
embattled Bashar al-Assad regime unlikely, the need for the opposition to
present a united front is ever more pressing.

 

"International governments want some kind of transitional council, like in
Libya, that they can recognize and deem legitimate,"

Christopher Phillips, an analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit's
Middle East team, said.  "But equally, they are not stupid.

 

"The difference is that the opposition in Libya was locally based and
organized, and until the Syrian opposition actually looks like they are
viable force capable of challenging Assad, the international community has
no real leadership to refer to."

 

The SNC backs the toppling of the regime, and members describe its role as
handling the international relations of the activist movement on the ground
-- but do not yet claim to officially represent the revolution.

 

They will need to tackle a number of major issues, key among them whether
the emphasis on keeping protests peaceful should be abandoned in favor of
taking up arms against the regime.

 

The threat that the uprising could descend into sectarian or civil conflict
has loomed large in regime propaganda, as well as the minds of many Syrians

 

"The elephant in the room is the militarization of the revolution,"

said Malik al-Abdeh, head of the London-based Syrian opposition satellite
channel Barada TV. Abdeh, who maintains strong links to the opposition
inside Syria and whose brother, Anad, is a leading member of the SNC's
diaspora leadership, explained that the group had yet to agree on a unified
stance on armed opposition or intervention.

 

"It has become quite obvious that the uprising is not as peaceful as we
would like," he said.  "The question is, do we endorse armed opposition or
do we maintain peaceful protest at the risk of not getting anywhere?"

 

There have been a number of army defections in recent weeks to a group of
officers calling themselves the Free Syrian Army, but as defections remain
relatively small in number, and the personnel low in rank, they are unlikely
to shift the balance of the conflict in the near future.

 

While the SNC says it has no formal links to the Free Syrian Army and does
not endorse its campaign, leaders say they welcome the defection of
political and security personnel from the regime.

 

The SNC has stated that it is resolutely opposed to foreign intervention,
but some opposition voices have called for civilian protection mechanisms,
such as no-fly zones in parts of the country to protect activists on the
ground

 

The SNC has yet to devise a clear policy on the subject but said it will
discuss different civilian protection possibilities during its Istanbul
meeting

 

As long as the United Nations remains in its current stalemate over a
sanctions resolution or clear condemnation of the regime's violent tactics,
an intervention like the no-fly zones imposed on Libya is distinctly
unlikely.  Analysts say the present violence could endure for months to
come.

 

"We are going to witness more of the same until there is some significant
tipping point reached on one side or the other," Phillips said.

 

"Defections are only coming in dribs and drabs and the opposition needs more
support, either internally or internationally, but until it swells to a
critical mass it won't get it.  Meanwhile, the regime will continue to
suppress protests until it is overthrown or its resources are exhausted."

 

--Zoe Holman is a regular Institute for War and Peace contributor.

 

3. THERE IS NO ESCAPE FROM 'MILITARIZING' THE UPRISING: SYRIAN OPPOSITION
LEADER By Ahmed Eleiba

 

Ahram Online

October 3, 2011

http://english.ahram.org.eg/~/NewsContentP/2/23256/World/There-is-no-escape-
from-
<http://english.ahram.org.eg/~/NewsContentP/2/23256/World/There-is-no-escape
-from-'militarising'-the-uprisin.aspx> 'militarising'-the-uprisin.aspx

 

The Khaled bin Al-Walid squadron of the insurgent Free Syrian Army --
estimated at 10,000 soldiers -- has withdrawn from the outskirts of the
Syrian city of Al-Rastan after it came under heavy shelling, killing many
among its ranks.

 

According to military strategy experts, it seems that neither forceful nor
peaceful methods are able to deter the regime, in the absence of agreement
among the opposition inside Syria.

 

Meanwhile, the Syrian border remains closed on all fronts, blocking
necessary supplies to the opposition to counter the heavy flow of arms and
equipment to the Syrian army.

 

Colonel Riyad Al-Asad, an officer who defected from the army three months
ago and leads opposition troops, described what is happening as "the
beginning of an armed rebellion."

 

"The Syrian regime will not fall except through armed force," Al-Asad told
the *Washington Post*.  "Our losses will not be any worse than what we are
suffering today in the form of killings, torture, and burying bodies."

 

Ahmed Riyad Ghanami, spokesman for the Syrian opposition, told Ahram Online
in a telephone interview that the Free Army, with an estimated 10,000
troops, will not be enough to block government assaults, citing the battle
in Al-Rastan as a case in point.  "We have not reached a point where we can
say that the Free Army is fighting the Agent Army,"

Ghanami asserted, arguing that Al-Asad's reported statements are not based
on political reality and are highly exaggerated.

 

"Several hundred soldiers have deserted Assad's army," he continued, "either
out of fear of being killed because they were recording abuses by the army,
or because they believe in the revolution."  These are basically Sunni
Muslims, after the battle became a sectarian one within the army, "since we
are being killed in Syria because we are of this sect."

 

Some 90 per cent of the Syrian army is Sunni, but they are not allowed to
hold top leadership positions.

 

"The majority of Sunni soldiers are now serving in administrative or field
services, which means they are not at the frontline assassinating the
people," explained Ghanami.  They were replaced by thugs who are in the
front along with the Alawites, who are Assad's clan who control key army
positions.

 

"While there are a handful of Sunni commanders, they are loyal to the regime
and are rewarded for their allegiance; they are, naturally, viewed as
traitors."

 

Amidst these revolutionary sentiments in the a war where thousands have been
killed, with more massacres expected, Colonel Al-As'ad called on the West to
impose a no-fly zone over Syria, similar to the one over Libya.  Ghanami
viewed it as a continuation of double standard policies by the West.  "What
is worse," he continued, "is that they -- the U.S., Britain, and France --
are giving Assad a green light to continue the massacres by procrastinating
and talking about the peaceful nature of the revolution, while they stand by
with the Arabs on the sidelines as spectators."

 

Neither Qatar, which interfered in Libya, nor revolutionary Egypt, which has
not even taken a diplomatic position by recalling its ambassador, nor the
Gulf heavyweight Saudi Arabia have stepped up to help the Syrian people.
Meanwhile, the border with Lebanon is closed with the presence of Hezbollah,
and with Iraq because the Baghdad regime supports Assad, while Qatar has not
yet received instructions from Washington, which is standard procedure.
"Geography has blocked many privileges," he explained, while the Arab League
has failed at every turn, and demonstrated its weakness in the Arab Spring.

"Meanwhile, the U.S.'s spoilt child Israel has benefited from conditions
where the West is quiet and slow."

 

Ghanam declared that "there is no choice but to militarize the revolution;
it is our legitimate right which we are forced to take.

Divisions within the army are the beginning; using only peaceful methods
will not achieve our goal."  He noted that the Free Army is not receiving
arms or funds from anywhere, but they can set up booby traps and target
military convoys, causing damage -- even if on a small scale at first --
which escalate.  "We must review our positions once in a while," he added.
"Now is the time for us to use force; since we are being killed anyway, we
should at least die with honor."

 

4. CHINA, RUSSIA VETOES THWART U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION ON SYRIA

 

CNN

October 4, 2011

http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/04/world/meast/syria-unrest/

 

Russia and China blocked efforts of other major powers to pass a U.N.

Security Council resolution on Syria Tuesday, with a dramatic dual veto
thwarting a call for an mmediate halt to the crackdown in Syria against
opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.

 

Nine of the 15-member council countries, including the United States, voted
in favor of adopting the resolution.

 

The Russian ambassador to the U.N. said Security Council action would be "an
intervention" that would send the wrong message to the international
community.

 

"I understand that my European colleagues are upset, having not obtained a
resolution which they were trying to obtain," Russia's Vitaly Churkin told
reporters afterward.

 

"Some capitals are being overly hasty in passing their judgment about the
illegitimacy of the leaders in Syria," he added.

 

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, meanwhile, said the United States "is outraged
that this council has utterly failed to address an urgent moral challenge
and a growing threat to regional peace and security."

 

The resolution, if passed, would have called upon Syria to stop oppressing
its citizens.

 

"The unprecedented, aggressive language resorted (to) by certain ambassadors
against my country, against the political leaders of my country, facilitated
my task today," said Bashar Ja'afari, Syrian ambassador to the United
Nations.

 

"This aggressive discourse reveals the prejudice in certain Western capitals
against my country's political leadership," added Ja'afari.

 

Security Council member countries India, Brazil, South Africa, Lebanon
abstained from voting on the resolution.

 

"After seven months of near complete inaction in the Council, while at least
2,600 people were being killed, and thousands injured, arrested or tortured,
this vote is a disgrace. By casting their veto, Russia and China are
enabling the Syrian government's abhorrent repression campaign," said
Philippe Bolopion, the United Nations director for Human Rights Watch.

 

Meanwhile, another round of violence flared in Syria Tuesday, as reports of
more deaths surfaced amid the relentless government crackdown on protesters.

 

The nearly seven-month-long offensive has drawn world condemnation and calls
to action against the government of al-Assad.

 

And a newly formed group of army deserters has issued pleas for help from
the international community.

 

"This regime will stay until the last drop of blood," said Col. Riad
al-Assa'ad, head of a group of army deserters that has merged into a force
called the Free Syria Army.  "But there can't be more bloodshed than there
already is."

 

"This is a regime built on force.  And it can't be brought down but with
force. We lived under it for 40 years."

 

At a State Department briefing in Washington before the Security Council
vote, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said adoption of a U.N.

resolution would send a message to the al-Assad regime that "the violence
has to stop."

 

"We've been making the strongest possible case that we can to all of the
U.N. Security Council members that, given the bloodshed, given the violence,
given the arrests, given the torture that the Assad regime has propagated
against its own people, it is overdue for the Security Council to make its
views known, and we hope that is a very, very strong message that they are
receiving," Nuland said.

 

Also on Tuesday, three Syrian army soldiers and one civilian were killed
during clashes in Jabal Al-Zawiya in Idlib province, said the London-based
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Security forces chasing wanted people
killed a man in the forests of Idlib between Karouma and al-Bara.

 

The activist group, which has a network of contacts across Syria, said
fighting erupted in the morning between soldiers at a military camp in the
northwestern province and armed men believed to be army defectors.

 

The corpse of a student detained by security forces in the town last month
was returned to his family, the observatory said.

 

The group also said security forces in Al-Dar Al-Kabira village in Homs
province opened fire at a security checkpoint and killed three civilians.
The province is in the western part of the country.

 

It said a 12-year-old was killed in the Homs province community of Deir
Baalba.

 

The observatory says 2,365 civilians and 680 army and security forces have
been killed in the unrest since mid-March.

 

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, another activist group, said at
least nine people died, including six in Homs and three in Idlib.

 

Government forces dispersed a student demonstration in Hasaka in the east
and arrested two students and a teacher.  Security forces arrested 10 youths
in a demonstration in the western city of Baniyas.

The LCC also reported raids and arrests in the Damascus suburbs.

 

The activist group said there was an exchange of fire between military
forces and dissident soldiers in the southern Daraa province.

 

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said "an armed terrorist group"

ambushed security forces in the city of Hama, in the west.  Two law
enforcement members were killed, and two were injured.

 

It also said that "an armed terrorist group" was responsible for killing and
mutilating five citizens in Homs after they were abducted and tortured.

 

Activists blame violence engulfing Syria since mid-March on security
personnel attacks.  The Syrian government says armed terrorists are
responsible.

 

CNN is unable to independently verify such claims, because the Syrian
government has denied international journalists access to the country.

 

The Free Syria Army, meanwhile, is hoping for support from the United
States, Europe, and neighboring countries, such as Turkey.

 

Al-Assa'ad is asking the international community to implement a no-fly zone
and a naval blockade, measures similar to those taken by an international
coalition against Libya.  The Free Syria Army is also requesting weapons and
wants the regime's frozen assets.

 

"Our correct strategy is to protect the demonstrations from the security
forces and the shabiha . . . until we bring down the regime,"

he told CNN on Monday, making a reference to pro-government forces.

 

"If we have a no-fly zone and a naval blockade and the weapons, we can
secure an area to operate from and move forward with bringing down the
regime."

 

Al-Assa'ad told CNN that the Syrian army "strayed from its mission,"

and his group decided to make protection of the citizenry its mission.

 

"The regime was using the military as its own private army, not an army to
protect Syria and the people.  They turned the army into a gang that was
killing people, killing innocents, destroying homes," he said Monday.

 

Al-Assa'ad sloughed off the government claim about armed gangs fomenting
violence.

 

"From the start of the revolution in Syria, we would get orders that there
were armed gangs in the country," he said.  "But there were no armed gangs."

 

The Free Syria Army recently claimed responsibility for operations in Homs
and Deir Ezzor in the east to protect the civilian population and harass
army units to prevent them from operating effectively.

 

Al-Assa'ad said military and security forces are "demoralized and tired."

 

"We are carrying out operations on Syrian lands. There are areas that they
are unable to enter. There are many areas that they are fearful about
entering. We are causing them losses."

 

Al-Assa'ad said defecting is a serious move to make because of the risks to
defectors' families. But the numbers of army defectors are increasing.

 

Asked whether any soldier with blood on his hands would be forgiven,
Al-Assa'ad said, "they are killing because they are being forced to. .

. . Many have been executed because they refused to shoot."

 

http://www.ufppc.org/us-a-world-news-mainmenu-35/10580/http://tinyurl.com/5v
avffs

 

1.

 

Middle East & North Africa

 

SYRIA OPPOSITION UNITES LEADERSHIP

By Abigail Fielding-Smith

 

Financial Times (London)

 

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/130a9960-ed0f-11e0-be97-00144feab49a.html#axz
z1ZsMIlubu

 

Syria's disparate and fractious opposition announced a credible united
leadership structure for the first time on Sunday at a meeting in
neighboring Turkey.

 

Burhan Ghalioun, a Paris-based sociologist popular with anti-government
protesters inside Syria, read a statement to reporters in Istanbul on behalf
of the Syrian National Council (SNC), saying it was dedicated to "achieving
the wishes and hopes of our people in overthrowing the current regime."

 

The political opposition to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in exile
has been under increasing pressure to unite from anti-government protesters
facing a crackdown which the U.N. says has claimed at least 2,700 lives.

 

Although the SNC itself was announced last month, many important forces in
the opposition, including Mr. Ghalioun, had not joined it until Sunday.

 

"The world has been waiting for this alternative for a while, they wanted an
alternative that includes the majority of opposition forces, and today we
got exactly that," said Yaser Tabbara, a member of the SNC's general
assembly.

 

Mr. Tabbara said the assembly agreed on a 29-member secretariat, whose
members will include Kurds, the Muslim Brotherhood, the traditional
opposition to the regime represented by the Damascus Declaration group, and
representatives of youth activists inside Syria.

 

The announcement of the SNC's formation came as Syrian authorities claimed
victory in a battle with armed opponents of the regime in the central town
of Rastan over the past few days.

 

State media said "stability and calm" had been restored after a campaign
which the regime claims was fought against "terrorist groups"

but which activists say was fought against soldiers who had defected from
the regime.

 

According to Wissam Tarif, the loss of the town was likely to puncture the
belief that defected soldiers battling government forces could bring the
regime down.  "Rastan has proven how much it is not sustainable because
there's no political push behind it," said Mr.

Tarif.

 

In the coming days, the secretariat will nominate a seven-member executive
body, said Mr Tabbara, among whom leadership of the council will rotate.

 

Wissam Tarif, a researcher with the campaign group Avaaz, said the council's
first challenges would be to secure funding and international recognition,
and to come up with a credible transition plan, at a time when faith in
peaceful protests alone as a tool for bringing down the regime is
diminishing.

 

"They need to come up with a transition plan," said Mr Tarif.  "They need to
tell the Syrian people how its going to happen."

 

Mr. Ghalioun said the council was against foreign intervention, but Mr
Tabbara said that position would not necessarily preclude the establishment
of a no-fly zone, which some activists have begun to call for.

 

2.

 

The Arab Spring

 

CAN SYRIAN OPPOSITION UNITE?

By Zoe Holman

 

** Questions raised about landmark council's ability to bring together
activists inside and outside the country. **

 

Institute for War & Peace Reporting

October 3, 2011

 

http://iwpr.net/report-news/can-syrian-opposition-unite

 

or

 

Asia Times Online

October 5, 2011

 

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MJ05Ak02.html

 

While its members hail the formation of an Syrian anti-regime assembly as
the biggest effort to date to form a representative body for activists,
analysts say it is still unclear whether this will succeed in uniting a
long-divided opposition.

 

Leaders of the 140-member Syrian National Counsel, SNC, formed during a
September 15 opposition meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, say it reflects an
unprecedented level of coordination.

 

"This attempt is unique," Yaser Tabbara, a United States-based lawyer and
member of the steering committee of the SNC, said.  "It is the most
systematic, scientific effort to form an opposition that is united and
independent at its very core.

 

"People who have been divided for over 50 years have decided to put
politicking aside and work on creating a neutral platform, without baggage
or personal ambition."

 

Opponents of the Syrian regime have launched a number of attempts at
creating a formal representative body since the uprising began in March,
most of which have been thwarted by geographical or long-standing political
and ideological divisions among members.

 

The SNC is the first body of its kind to include major representation from
the local coordination committees, LCCs, the main groups driving the protest
on the ground in Syria, who will make up around 60% of its members.  The SNC
also includes exiled representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and
signatories to the 2005 Damascus Declaration, a landmark statement of unity
by opposition members.

 

"The members are well-recognized and have excellent relationships inside and
outside Syria," Tabbara said.  "The fact that this process of negotiation
has been three months in the making indicates the most mature and advanced
effort [so far]."

 

The SNC is currently meeting once again in Istanbul to elect its formal
leadership, but with continuing uncertainty over the makeup and aims of the
council, some commentators are skeptical about the opposition's ability to
overcome divisions.

 

"I am not sure in the end how different this council is," Salwa Ismail,
politics professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London,
said.  "It is already contested, with different groups on the ground and
abroad saying it is not representative."

 

Some leading figures of the opposition-in-exile old guard, such as Michel
Kilo, who heads the National Committee for Democratic Change, are indeed not
included on the recently released list of members.

 

But while the SNC lacked support from some central groups when first
launched in August, its membership has since grown to include several key
groups including the Syrian Revolution General Commission, which had
initially declined to endorse it.

 

With the exception of a few public figures, the Syrian internal opposition
remains largely faceless but well-organized.  By contrast, the opposition
abroad is rife with division.

 

"The problem right now is that we have groups outside who don't know each
other, with a history of division spanning 40-50 years in which all
activists were persecuted ruthlessly by the regime," Ismael said.

"Almost 100,000 political prisoners were taken over this period and the
regime led a successful campaign in dividing people and generating mistrust.
It takes a long time to overcome that."

 

But with human-rights groups estimating that the civilian death toll from
the conflict has exceeded 3,000, and with a transition to democracy by the
embattled Bashar al-Assad regime unlikely, the need for the opposition to
present a united front is ever more pressing.

 

"International governments want some kind of transitional council, like in
Libya, that they can recognize and deem legitimate,"

Christopher Phillips, an analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit's
Middle East team, said.  "But equally, they are not stupid.

 

"The difference is that the opposition in Libya was locally based and
organized, and until the Syrian opposition actually looks like they are
viable force capable of challenging Assad, the international community has
no real leadership to refer to."

 

The SNC backs the toppling of the regime, and members describe its role as
handling the international relations of the activist movement on the ground
-- but do not yet claim to officially represent the revolution.

 

They will need to tackle a number of major issues, key among them whether
the emphasis on keeping protests peaceful should be abandoned in favor of
taking up arms against the regime.

 

The threat that the uprising could descend into sectarian or civil conflict
has loomed large in regime propaganda, as well as the minds of many Syrians

 

"The elephant in the room is the militarization of the revolution,"

said Malik al-Abdeh, head of the London-based Syrian opposition satellite
channel Barada TV. Abdeh, who maintains strong links to the opposition
inside Syria and whose brother, Anad, is a leading member of the SNC's
diaspora leadership, explained that the group had yet to agree on a unified
stance on armed opposition or intervention.

 

"It has become quite obvious that the uprising is not as peaceful as we
would like," he said.  "The question is, do we endorse armed opposition or
do we maintain peaceful protest at the risk of not getting anywhere?"

 

There have been a number of army defections in recent weeks to a group of
officers calling themselves the Free Syrian Army, but as defections remain
relatively small in number, and the personnel low in rank, they are unlikely
to shift the balance of the conflict in the near future.

 

While the SNC says it has no formal links to the Free Syrian Army and does
not endorse its campaign, leaders say they welcome the defection of
political and security personnel from the regime.

 

The SNC has stated that it is resolutely opposed to foreign intervention,
but some opposition voices have called for civilian protection mechanisms,
such as no-fly zones in parts of the country to protect activists on the
ground

 

The SNC has yet to devise a clear policy on the subject but said it will
discuss different civilian protection possibilities during its Istanbul
meeting

 

As long as the United Nations remains in its current stalemate over a
sanctions resolution or clear condemnation of the regime's violent tactics,
an intervention like the no-fly zones imposed on Libya is distinctly
unlikely.  Analysts say the present violence could endure for months to
come.

 

"We are going to witness more of the same until there is some significant
tipping point reached on one side or the other," Phillips said.

 

"Defections are only coming in dribs and drabs and the opposition needs more
support, either internally or internationally, but until it swells to a
critical mass it won't get it.  Meanwhile, the regime will continue to
suppress protests until it is overthrown or its resources are exhausted."

 

--Zoe Holman is a regular Institute for War and Peace contributor.

 

3.

 

World

 

THERE IS NO ESCAPE FROM 'MILITARIZING' THE UPRISING: SYRIAN OPPOSITION
LEADER By Ahmed Eleiba

 

Ahram Online

October 3, 2011

 

http://english.ahram.org.eg/~/NewsContentP/2/23256/World/There-is-no-escape-
from-
<http://english.ahram.org.eg/~/NewsContentP/2/23256/World/There-is-no-escape
-from-'militarising'-the-uprisin.aspx> 'militarising'-the-uprisin.aspx

 

The Khaled bin Al-Walid squadron of the insurgent Free Syrian Army --
estimated at 10,000 soldiers -- has withdrawn from the outskirts of the
Syrian city of Al-Rastan after it came under heavy shelling, killing many
among its ranks.

 

According to military strategy experts, it seems that neither forceful nor
peaceful methods are able to deter the regime, in the absence of agreement
among the opposition inside Syria.

 

Meanwhile, the Syrian border remains closed on all fronts, blocking
necessary supplies to the opposition to counter the heavy flow of arms and
equipment to the Syrian army.

 

Colonel Riyad Al-Asad, an officer who defected from the army three months
ago and leads opposition troops, described what is happening as "the
beginning of an armed rebellion."

 

"The Syrian regime will not fall except through armed force," Al-Asad told
the *Washington Post*.  "Our losses will not be any worse than what we are
suffering today in the form of killings, torture, and burying bodies."

 

Ahmed Riyad Ghanami, spokesman for the Syrian opposition, told Ahram Online
in a telephone interview that the Free Army, with an estimated 10,000
troops, will not be enough to block government assaults, citing the battle
in Al-Rastan as a case in point.  "We have not reached a point where we can
say that the Free Army is fighting the Agent Army,"

Ghanami asserted, arguing that Al-Asad's reported statements are not based
on political reality and are highly exaggerated.

 

"Several hundred soldiers have deserted Assad's army," he continued, "either
out of fear of being killed because they were recording abuses by the army,
or because they believe in the revolution."  These are basically Sunni
Muslims, after the battle became a sectarian one within the army, "since we
are being killed in Syria because we are of this sect."

 

Some 90 per cent of the Syrian army is Sunni, but they are not allowed to
hold top leadership positions.

 

"The majority of Sunni soldiers are now serving in administrative or field
services, which means they are not at the frontline assassinating the
people," explained Ghanami.  They were replaced by thugs who are in the
front along with the Alawites, who are Assad's clan who control key army
positions.

 

"While there are a handful of Sunni commanders, they are loyal to the regime
and are rewarded for their allegiance; they are, naturally, viewed as
traitors."

 

Amidst these revolutionary sentiments in the a war where thousands have been
killed, with more massacres expected, Colonel Al-As'ad called on the West to
impose a no-fly zone over Syria, similar to the one over Libya.  Ghanami
viewed it as a continuation of double standard policies by the West.  "What
is worse," he continued, "is that they -- the U.S., Britain, and France --
are giving Assad a green light to continue the massacres by procrastinating
and talking about the peaceful nature of the revolution, while they stand by
with the Arabs on the sidelines as spectators."

 

Neither Qatar, which interfered in Libya, nor revolutionary Egypt, which has
not even taken a diplomatic position by recalling its ambassador, nor the
Gulf heavyweight Saudi Arabia have stepped up to help the Syrian people.
Meanwhile, the border with Lebanon is closed with the presence of Hezbollah,
and with Iraq because the Baghdad regime supports Assad, while Qatar has not
yet received instructions from Washington, which is standard procedure.
"Geography has blocked many privileges," he explained, while the Arab League
has failed at every turn, and demonstrated its weakness in the Arab Spring.

"Meanwhile, the U.S.'s spoilt child Israel has benefited from conditions
where the West is quiet and slow."

 

Ghanam declared that "there is no choice but to militarize the revolution;
it is our legitimate right which we are forced to take.

Divisions within the army are the beginning; using only peaceful methods
will not achieve our goal."  He noted that the Free Army is not receiving
arms or funds from anywhere, but they can set up booby traps and target
military convoys, causing damage -- even if on a small scale at first --
which escalate.  "We must review our positions once in a while," he added.
"Now is the time for us to use force; since we are being killed anyway, we
should at least die with honor."

 

4.

 

CHINA, RUSSIA VETOES THWART U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION ON SYRIA

 

CNN

October 4, 2011

 

http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/04/world/meast/syria-unrest/

 

Russia and China blocked efforts of other major powers to pass a U.N.

Security Council resolution on Syria Tuesday, with a dramatic dual veto
thwarting a call for an immediate halt to the crackdown in Syria against
opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.

 

Nine of the 15-member council countries, including the United States, voted
in favor of adopting the resolution.

 

The Russian ambassador to the U.N. said Security Council action would be "an
intervention" that would send the wrong message to the international
community.

 

"I understand that my European colleagues are upset, having not obtained a
resolution which they were trying to obtain," Russia's Vitaly Churkin told
reporters afterward.

 

"Some capitals are being overly hasty in passing their judgment about the
illegitimacy of the leaders in Syria," he added.

 

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, meanwhile, said the United States "is outraged
that this council has utterly failed to address an urgent moral challenge
and a growing threat to regional peace and security."

 

The resolution, if passed, would have called upon Syria to stop oppressing
its citizens.

 

"The unprecedented, aggressive language resorted (to) by certain ambassadors
against my country, against the political leaders of my country, facilitated
my task today," said Bashar Ja'afari, Syrian ambassador to the United
Nations.

 

"This aggressive discourse reveals the prejudice in certain Western capitals
against my country's political leadership," added Ja'afari.

 

Security Council member countries India, Brazil, South Africa, Lebanon
abstained from voting on the resolution.

 

"After seven months of near complete inaction in the Council, while at least
2,600 people were being killed, and thousands injured, arrested or tortured,
this vote is a disgrace. By casting their veto, Russia and China are
enabling the Syrian government's abhorrent repression campaign," said
Philippe Bolopion, the United Nations director for Human Rights Watch.

 

Meanwhile, another round of violence flared in Syria Tuesday, as reports of
more deaths surfaced amid the relentless government crackdown on protesters.

 

The nearly seven-month-long offensive has drawn world condemnation and calls
to action against the government of al-Assad.

 

And a newly formed group of army deserters has issued pleas for help from
the international community.

 

"This regime will stay until the last drop of blood," said Col. Riad
al-Assa'ad, head of a group of army deserters that has merged into a force
called the Free Syria Army.  "But there can't be more bloodshed than there
already is."

 

"This is a regime built on force.  And it can't be brought down but with
force. We lived under it for 40 years."

 

At a State Department briefing in Washington before the Security Council
vote, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said adoption of a U.N.

resolution would send a message to the al-Assad regime that "the violence
has to stop."

 

"We've been making the strongest possible case that we can to all of the
U.N. Security Council members that, given the bloodshed, given the violence,
given the arrests, given the torture that the Assad regime has propagated
against its own people, it is overdue for the Security Council to make its
views known, and we hope that is a very, very strong message that they are
receiving," Nuland said.

 

Also on Tuesday, three Syrian army soldiers and one civilian were killed
during clashes in Jabal Al-Zawiya in Idlib province, said the London-based
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Security forces chasing wanted people
killed a man in the forests of Idlib between Karouma and al-Bara.

 

The activist group, which has a network of contacts across Syria, said
fighting erupted in the morning between soldiers at a military camp in the
northwestern province and armed men believed to be army defectors.

 

The corpse of a student detained by security forces in the town last month
was returned to his family, the observatory said.

 

The group also said security forces in Al-Dar Al-Kabira village in Homs
province opened fire at a security checkpoint and killed three civilians.
The province is in the western part of the country.

 

It said a 12-year-old was killed in the Homs province community of Deir
Baalba.

 

The observatory says 2,365 civilians and 680 army and security forces have
been killed in the unrest since mid-March.

 

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, another activist group, said at
least nine people died, including six in Homs and three in Idlib.

 

Government forces dispersed a student demonstration in Hasaka in the east
and arrested two students and a teacher.  Security forces arrested 10 youths
in a demonstration in the western city of Baniyas.

The LCC also reported raids and arrests in the Damascus suburbs.

 

The activist group said there was an exchange of fire between military
forces and dissident soldiers in the southern Daraa province.

 

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said "an armed terrorist group"

ambushed security forces in the city of Hama, in the west.  Two law
enforcement members were killed, and two were injured.

 

It also said that "an armed terrorist group" was responsible for killing and
mutilating five citizens in Homs after they were abducted and tortured.

 

Activists blame violence engulfing Syria since mid-March on security
personnel attacks.  The Syrian government says armed terrorists are
responsible.

 

CNN is unable to independently verify such claims, because the Syrian
government has denied international journalists access to the country.

 

The Free Syria Army, meanwhile, is hoping for support from the United
States, Europe, and neighboring countries, such as Turkey.

 

Al-Assa'ad is asking the international community to implement a no-fly zone
and a naval blockade, measures similar to those taken by an international
coalition against Libya.  The Free Syria Army is also requesting weapons and
wants the regime's frozen assets.

 

"Our correct strategy is to protect the demonstrations from the security
forces and the shabiha . . . until we bring down the regime,"

he told CNN on Monday, making a reference to pro-government forces.

 

"If we have a no-fly zone and a naval blockade and the weapons, we can
secure an area to operate from and move forward with bringing down the
regime."

 

Al-Assa'ad told CNN that the Syrian army "strayed from its mission,"

and his group decided to make protection of the citizenry its mission.

 

"The regime was using the military as its own private army, not an army to
protect Syria and the people.  They turned the army into a gang that was
killing people, killing innocents, destroying homes," he said Monday.

 

Al-Assa'ad sloughed off the government claim about armed gangs fomenting
violence.

 

"From the start of the revolution in Syria, we would get orders that there
were armed gangs in the country," he said.  "But there were no armed gangs."

 

The Free Syria Army recently claimed responsibility for operations in Homs
and Deir Ezzor in the east to protect the civilian population and harass
army units to prevent them from operating effectively.

 

Al-Assa'ad said military and security forces are "demoralized and tired."

 

"We are carrying out operations on Syrian lands. There are areas that they
are unable to enter. There are many areas that they are fearful about
entering. We are causing them losses."

 

Al-Assa'ad said defecting is a serious move to make because of the risks to
defectors' families. But the numbers of army defectors are increasing.

 

Asked whether any soldier with blood on his hands would be forgiven,
Al-Assa'ad said, "they are killing because they are being forced to. .

. . Many have been executed because they refused to shoot."

 

 



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