Syria: Create A Desert And Call It Peace


October 4, 2012: The government continues firing artillery at suspected rebel neighborhoods (especially in Damascus and Aleppo) and towns. This has pushed the death toll for 18 months of fighting to over 31,000. The government has ordered its forces to be more ruthless and to level neighborhoods and murder all military age men (16-60, more or less) found there. This has made it more difficult for the rebels to hide among civilians and move around while pretending to be unarmed civilians. Thus the rebels have lost control of some neighborhoods because those areas have been obliterated by artillery and depopulated by troops ordered to kill all adult males. But the rebels continue to resist and grow in numbers. The government forces continue to shrink. The government believes it can ultimately break the rebels. Given the number of civilians the Assad forces have killed (most of the dead are civilians), the government has backed itself into a corner where it must fight or die. Negotiation appears to no longer be an option.

One of the most potent Syrian tactics against the rebels is loudly and constantly claiming that the rebels have a large al Qaeda component. There are a lot of Islamic terrorists among the rebels, perhaps ten percent of the fighters. The terrorists carry out the most daring bombing operations, often using suicide bombers. Syria, and their ally Russia, insist that any arms and ammo given to the rebels will eventually be used by Islamic terrorists against the donor nations. This fear has prevented many nations, who otherwise support the rebels, from providing portable anti-aircraft missiles and large caliber weapons that terrorists have been known to use in the past. The main rebel military organization, the FSA (Free Syrian Army), is constantly trying to assure donors that the Islamic radical groups are under control. But everyone agrees that such control is partial and not complete. The general belief is that, once the rebellion is over, the Islamic terrorists will go back to attacking those that disagree with them (which includes almost everyone in the world).

While some Arab donor countries have been stingy when it comes to weapons and ammo, they have been generous in supplying Syrian refugees (mainly in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan) with food and other necessities. But as with weapons and ammo, the donors have to be careful which Syrians they use to help distribute the relief supplies. Corruption is still a big problem and finding trustworthy helpers is a chore. The Syrian government continues to block foreign aid for refugees inside Syria. Winter is coming and the government apparently plans to use cold and starvation as a weapon against the rebels.

Meanwhile, the FSA is having no trouble finding new recruits, especially in areas (like major cities) where the government is still nominally in control. The growing savagery of the government forces against civilians (especially those suspected of not being staunch government supporters) has convinced many Syrian men that neutrality is not an option. The biggest problem FSA has is finding good small unit (for groups of 10-30 fighters) leaders (who are usually army veterans). The other big problem is finding weapons for all those who want to fight and then keeping those fighters supplied with ammunition.

FSA claims it is encountering more and more Hezbollah and Iranian gunmen. FSA claims to have killed at least 300 Hezbollah and Iranian military men so far, including some identified as leaders. FSA has openly threatened Hezbollah leaders with retaliation inside Lebanon (where Syrian agents have long operated). Lebanese intelligence officials confirm that several senior Hezbollah leaders have been killed recently in Syria, while leading their men against Syrian rebels.

Fighting has broken out in western (coastal) Syria between pro and anti-Assad Alawite clans. Many Alawites have fled to the coastal area, between the ports of Latakia and Tartus, where Alawites have long been the majority. This region is not only safer for Alawites but, because of the two ports, it provides a ready means of escape if the situation becomes truly desperate. But many of the new arrivals are unhappy with the Alawite dominated government and its policy of total war against the majority of Syrians.

A large bomb went off in Damascus, killing at least 18. Most of the victims were soldiers.

Turkey said it did not plan to declare war on Syria, despite two days of Turkish artillery firing on targets inside Syria. This is in response to Syrian troops firing mortar shells into Turkey (at suspected Syrian rebels). The Turkish Army fired back and continued to do so.

Some Arab countries (led by Qatar) have called for an Arab military intervention against the Assad government. But most Arab military leaders agree that the Arab countries do not have adequate forces to pull off such an invasion. This is a humiliating, but accurate, assessment.

October 3, 2012: In Aleppo three car bombs went off in government controlled parts of the city, killing at least 40 and wounding over a hundred. Most of the victims were soldiers or police. The army continues to shell rebel held neighborhoods and suburban areas.

October 1, 2012:  Iran has openly called on Syria not to use its chemical weapons. Iran has been rumored to have been urging the same thing privately for months.

Syria has made its break with Hamas official by denouncing Hamas for not supporting their long–time ally Syria. Hamas is the Palestinian terror group that controls Gaza and began pulling many of its personnel out of Syria last year. Hamas has long had offices, and many senior leaders, based in Syria. Other Arab terror groups have also found sanctuary in Syria, and most are seeking new homes. Hamas is now backing the rebels, which has angered the Assads. Hamas represents a largely Sunni Arab constituency and so had little choice. Hamas still maintains some ties with Iran.

September 30, 2012: Iraq has given in to foreign pressure (especially from the United States) to inspect all Iranian aircraft passing through Iraq on their way to Syria and checking for weapons. Iran protested but agreed. The problem now is who guarantees the effectiveness of the Iraqi inspectors. Corruption is rampant in Iraq and bribes have been known to interfere with the eyesight of inspectors.

In the northern city of Qamishli (in a largely Kurdish area) a bomb went off near an army base, killing four soldiers and wounding many more.

September 28, 2012: The U.S. announced that it was giving $45 million in aid to the Syrian rebels. Most of this is humanitarian aid for refugees. So far this year the United States has provided $132 million in aid for the rebels.

September 27, 2012: Israel has concluded that rockets and mortar shells that have fallen on the Israeli side of the Syrian border recently were not deliberately fired at Israel. There has been constant fighting on the Syrian side as rebels and government forces battle for control of the border posts. Israel apparently has agents on the Syrian side, as well as UAVs and other means of monitoring what is going on in Syria.

September 26, 2012: Two large bombs went off in a government controlled area of Damascus, leaving four dead and 14 wounded.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close