Saturday, February 11, 2012

Armed resistance and the Syrian dilemmas I

 Checkpoint manned by the Free Syrian Army in the Baba Amro district of Homs, picture taken in December 2011, (Der Spiegel). 

 Somebody who uses the alias 'Ehsani', writes On Joshua Landis' blog Syria Comment from within Syria about the frightening direction the Syrian opposition has taken by more and more resorting to armed resistance. It is not Ehsani's first contribution on Landis' blog, but this one is the most sobering:  

Since Hama, Syrian opposition members have begun increasingly to  call to demand weapons and a military response to overpower the regime. For the next 6 months, Syrian streets and neighborhoods became armed enough that the mighty Syrian army had to think twice before entering the developing mini enclaves ruled by the opposition within its cities. Not surprisingly, taking up arms suddenly became the accepted modus operandi of the opposition and the uprising. Those cautioning against such strategies were referred to as ignorant or regime supporters.

Young opposition activists who followed the advice to arm and fight the regime are now being left to fend for themselves against the military Goliath of the Syrian Army. As I wrote following my return from the country, many assured me that the armed forces were yet to use more than 20% of their capacity. As I listened to pronouncements by opposition leaders about the necessity to arm, I could not help but wonder what would happen when Damascus would unleash its full  military might. We will now find out.


Sadly, following the double veto at the U.N., many capitals have announced that they are willing to further arm the rebels. This is a travesty. The fact is that no amount of arms in the hands of such untrained rebels will come even close to defeating the Syrian army. This insanity must stop. The Syrian National Council and regional powers must come up with a different strategy if they truly care about the Syrian people who are now dying on the streets and in their homes.  Some have argued that had it not been for the veto at the U.N., the Syrian army would not have responded this way over the past 48 hours. This is false. The decision to storm Homs and Zabadani was made before the vote. The central government decided to restore its control
over all its cities before a Syrian Benghazi could be established.
At the beginning of this crisis, I was skeptical that the opposition was as armed as the government media claimed. By the end of Ramadan, I had no doubt that armed elements were indeed committing violence against government forces and others. 

Food for thought in some Western capitals? 

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