Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Syrian rebels reject the West? (part 3)

Just one more point on the 24/9 announcement: The Washington Post reported
Gen. Salim Idriss, the head of the moderate Supreme Military Council and the chief conduit for U.S. aid to the rebels, cut short a visit to Paris after the announcement of the alliance overnight Tuesday and will head to Syria on Thursday to attempt to persuade the factions to reconsider, according to the council’s spokesman, Louay al-Mokdad.The new alliance stressed that it was not abandoning Idriss’s council.
Going back to events earlier in September, the BBC's Paul Wood reported (Isis seizure of Syria's Azaz exposes rebel rifts):
Last week, Isis issued a fatwa declaring operation Banishment of Hypocrisy against the FSA in al-Bab and in Aleppo, both not far from Azaz. According to fliers handed out by Isis fighters, this would be an offensive targeting two FSA brigades accused of "cowardly attacks on the benevolent mujahideen". Fighting has also broken out between the FSA and Isis in another important town, Dayr az Zawr. 
A third translation (cf. "purifying maliciousness" and “Purification of Filth”). He also wrote:
Isis and [an allied group,] al Muhajireen accused the man filming them - a doctor or his associate - of being journalists. That is a very dangerous accusation in Syria at the moment since the most extreme jihadi groups have taken a position that Western journalists are spies.
The jihadis seem to believe that mooted US strikes against the Syrian regime would have been aimed at them and were only postponed because Islamist fighters had successfully dispersed and hidden in new locations. They believe that Western journalists are coming into Syria now to acquire new targeting information for drone and missile strikes against them. A new posting on a jihadist forum announced that "journalists are the enemy to the mujahideen in Syria and globally". Any Western journalists should be arrested and punished according to Sharia, the posting said. 
More "moderate" elements of the opposition fighters would, I think, welcome foreign journalists, to show the atrocities of the Assad regime (I had a source for this, but it has vanished into the ether). Aymenn J Al-Tamimi ‏(@ajaltamimi), in a series of tweets,  translation of a facebook page in Arabic:
Local Azaz media center: our inability to transmit news from within town due to detention of crew members by ISIS: // "The problem in Azaz isn't between ISIS & Northern Storm; the problem is between ISIS and all who don't pledge allegiance to that group..." // "i.e. All who haven't pledged complete obedience to ISIS, even if he is Islamic in program and thought and orientation" // "Truly they [ISIS] want all to bow to them in loyalty & give them absolute obedience even if one doesn't believe in them & their commanders" // [cont.].. "Even if one doesn't believe in their ideas & foolish politics. We will not remain silent over falsehood but will speak for truth" // "...We did not revolt against the tyranny of the Nuṣayri [Assad] to exchange him for the tyranny of those who pretend to be Muslims." // There you have it folks, the statement by Azaz activist Mahmoud Othman. Anti-Alawite and anti-ISIS at the same time
21/9   FSA brigade 'joins al-Qaeda group' in Syria:
Hundreds of fighters under the command of the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) have reportedly switched allegiance to al-Qaeda-aligned groups, in a move described as a huge blow to moderate rebel forces. Activists and military sources have told Al Jazeera that the 11th Division - one of the biggest FSA brigades - has switched allegiance to the al-Nusra Front in Raqqah province, a border province with Turkey.
The Reuters news agency, citing sources inside Syria, also reported that entire units of the FSA had joined Nusra and the ISIS in recent days. The Raqqah Revolutionaries - which is part of the 11th Division - has about 750 fighters in total, according to a source close to al-Qaeda linked forces.
Abdulhamid Zakarya, military spokesman of Chiefs of Staff of the FSA, denied that Division 11 had joined Nusra. However, he said it had signed an agreement to collaborate in military operations. In a separate statement, the FSA also condemned the ISIS for its actions in Azaz, saying it was going against the principles of the Syrian revolution. “ISIS no longer fights the Assad regime. Rather, it is strengthening its positions in liberated areas at the expense of the safety of civilians. ISIS is inflicting on the people the same suppression of the Baath party and the Assad regime.”
22/9 Charles Lister, in a , says that the Ahfad al-Rasoul fighter (under duress of course) confessed that his group was armed by France and the group was subsequently stigmatised throughout Syria.

More sources:
18/9 Did Al Qaeda Just Go To War With Syria’s Rebels? by James Miller
20/9  Syria 'al-Qaeda fighters' agree to truce ... Without a victor Maya Gebeily FSA squares off against al-Qaeda ... Syrian rebels turn on each other as 'big tent' strategy collapses

25/9 Rebel rifts): "Many rebels have said they or their groups have been forced to adopt Islamist names, slogans and imagery to ensure they get funding."

26/9 Syrian Islamists split and merge Maya Gebeily, September 26, 2013
More tweets from Aymenn J Al-Tamimi :
anti-ISIS activists & FSA-banner supporters in Azaz fear being arrested and killed at hands of ISIS: [facebook.com/azaz.al7ra] Azaz activists: "Message to ISIS: have you come to protect us, or to kill us, arrest us or occupy our homes?" Well based on the looks of this page they appear to have once been supporters of ISIS but turned on the group after the clashes.

The local Azaz Facebook activist page 'Shabab Halab- Azaz', whose creators I was interviewing only yesterday, has now shut down. Bad news! // On the other hand 'Ahrar Azaz' and Azaz media office's Facebook pages which feature the ISIS flag despite recent anti-ISIS posts remain // I'm pessimistic: I expect both pages will also be shut down in due course; w/ that, most Azaz contact with outside world could be broken off //
28/9 From The Economist (Their own men):
 Even some vetted fighters have long espoused the creation of an Islamic state, but quietly so as not to worry non-Islamist brothers-in-arms—let alone Syria’s myriad non-Sunni Muslim minorities. The decision to go public is in part down to Egypt, says one rebel man. The coup that ousted Muhammad Morsi, a Muslim Brother, showed that there is nothing to gain from paying lip service to democracy. Western powers will now find their proxies have less influence than ever. In the month since America backed away from missile strikes to punish Syria’s regime for using chemical weapons, the [Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC)] has become increasingly irrelevant. Strikes would have bolstered moderates, including Selim Idriss, a defected general who heads the military command. The ensuing deal between Russia and America whereby Syria’s regime must hand over its chemical weapons was perceived as coming at the expense of the rebels.  (my emphasis)
Concerns grow over Syria's foreign fighters [Concern is growing in Syria about the impact foreign fighters and groups affiliated to al-Qaeda are having on the conflict. Many are coming into the country from Turkey - and analysts are warning that it is jeopardising security.] Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught reports from Antakya. Sep 28, 2013

West Says U.N. Nears Syria Resolution By SOMINI SENGUPTA  Two diplomats said they had reached a consensus on the broad elements, including “a reference” to sanctions should Syria fail to comply with its obligations
Hezbollah faces pressure at home
Syrian President Bashar Assad's Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, has been fighting alongside Syrian forces. Its stated policy is to prevent Damascus from falling. But the group has paid a heavy price for its involvement and is under increasing pressure at home.Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports from Beirut. Published on Sep 26, 2013 Giving up CW has been a strategic loss for Hezbollah as well as Syria.

For the U.N., Syria Is Both Promise and Peril By NADER MOUSAVIZADEH The American-Russian agreement to rid Syria of chemical weapons should please — and terrify — anyone hoping to see the United Nations return to relevance in global security.

27/9  Many dead in car-bomb blast near Damascus Explosion near Mosque north of the Syrian capital leaves at least 30 dead and dozens injured, activists report. ... struck outside the al-Sahel mosque in the town of Rankous, also wounded dozens of people, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Rankous, which lies about 40km from Damascus, is neither rebel-held nor regime-held. Local residents have an agreement with the rebels not to bring their weapons into the town in order to avoid government shelling. Elsewhere in Damascus province, government troops continued their military campaign on the rebel-held Barzeh district. Activists said artillery shelling there left several people dead and led to the destruction of some buildings. Near Damascus International Airport, clashes continued in al-Zamaniya and Shebaa villages between government forces and rebels. Assad forces are trying to advance further north into the rebel-held eastern Gouta, but have so far been repelled by opposition forces.

28/9 UN adopts Syria chemical resolution  UN Security Council agrees to rid Syria of chemical weapons, endorses peace process [Through the] unanimous adoption of resolution 2118 (2013), [..] “for the expeditious destruction of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons programme and stringent verification thereof.” [..] Defiance of the resolution, including unauthorized transfer of chemical weapons, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in Syria, would bring about measures under the UN Charter’s binding Chapter VII, which can include sanctions or stronger coercive action, the Council said. UNSC resolutions 2013

Documentary BBC - A History of Syria (2013)

Update 19 Nov 2013: BBC News - Syria jihadist rebels prepare for US attack, Frank Gardner (2/9) 


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