If With Peace You Don’t Succeed . . .

Subtly, but surely, an important milestone has been reached in the eight-month uprising in Syria, as Marie Simon writes in an interesting new article in the French newsmagazine L’Express:

Jour après jour, la Syrie semble glisser vers la guerre civile http://t.co/LoWegPXI via @


Marie Simon

The lede:

Part of the opposition is resigned to letting the weapons talk to gain the fall of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime, in the absence of any international intervention. The latest actions of the new “Free Syrian Army” trouble the international community.

Surely, if you have been following developments at all, you have noticed recent reports, ever-more frequent, of “Syrian Army deserters” fighting back against, and indeed killing, some fractions of the military and police forces sent to violently suppress the demonstrations. These demonstrations have been overwhelmingly peaceful over these long, long months – months, and days, seem long when you head out onto the streets, time after time, to offer yourself to get shot – and this has been a point of pride for the opposition. Then again: eight months, and not only is Assad still in power, with over 3,500 dead at his hands according to UN figures (and thousands of others locked up and tortured in jail), but he is still playing silly games like promising the Arab League to withdraw the army from Syria’s cities and then doing no such thing.

It’s no surprise, then, that this “no violence” discipline has started to waver. Actually, more than that: this “Free Syrian Army” (ASL is its French-language abbreviation) has existed since July, where it was first formed on the Turkish-Syrian border by a renegade Syrian Army colonel, one Riad Al-Assad, of whom Reuters provides a photo in the article, in civilian shirt-sleeves. (You’d have to assume he is no relation to Syria’s ruling family.)

Why the Turkish-Syrian border? Because of some sort of Turkish support? Not at all: rather, Syrian Army deserters tend to flee in that direction. And there are more and more of these deserters, who, no matter what they might feel about the protestors’ cause, are often prompted to flee by the prospect of suffering the death penalty should they refuse orders to fire upon civilians. Only deserters are accepted – the ASL will not arm or train civilians – but apparently these forces already number some 10,000 to 17,000 soldiers (comparison: the Syrian Army is around 200,000), organized in 18 battalions, athough understandably short on arms and ammunition. This did not stop them, however, from carrying out a quite impressive attack on Wednesday (16 November) on a Syrian Secret Service aerial intelligence installation on the outskirts of Damascus.

Not Overjoyed

There’s just one thing: Too many parties are not particularly happy to see the emergence of this ASL. The Syrian National Council (the leading organization of dissident political leaders, located outside of Syria itself; French abbreviation CNS) has an awkward relationship with these forces; these politicians have largely not yet given up the attitude that the opposition should remain peaceful, and they are also suspicious of the post-Assad influence that ASL is likely to wield. Further, no foreign government or organization of governments (e.g. the Arab League) is pleased to see the ASL either, because none of them desire to see Syria descend into some bloody civil war – Libya all over again, you could say, but this time in quite different terrain and a much more crucial geopolitical position (in terms of the serious disruption such a civil war would surely cause among the neighbors, among which Israel). Not the Russians; not the Americans or anyone else.

The cruel irony, though, is that it is the seeming reluctance of any of these outside parties actually to intervene in an effective way to stop the continuing slaughter of the Syrian people which has provided a major impetus to the formation of these renegade armed forces, one of whose missions it is to try to stop it. Allah, many in Syria have apparently decided, will only help those who help themselves, no matter what that takes.

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