Saturday, April 28, 2012

The divided rebels of Syria

The article "Rebel rivalry and suspicions threaten Syria revolt" by Erika Solomon discusses some aspects of the uprising.

It discusses the search for weapons - with rebels sometimes turning on each other to acquire weapons. To get weapons you need a sponsor and that means subscribing to his ideological agenda:

Such mistrust is compounded by the competing agendas of outside parties who are further fragmenting the rebel movement. Finding a donor usually means using personal connections, rebels say. They get relatives or expatriate friends to put them in touch with businessmen or Syrian groups abroad. But once fighters go to private donors for weapons, they have to negotiate, and the price may be ideological.

Many say Islamist groups, from hard-line Salafists to the exiled Muslim Brotherhood, bankroll many battalions that share their religious outlook. The Brotherhood has representatives in Antakya ready to meet interested rebels, fighters say.

Leftist politicians and other opponents of Islamists are trying to counter that influence by funding rival armed bands. "These groups are all making their own militias, like they are some kind of warlords. This is dividing people," said one activist who asked not to be named. "They aren't thinking about military strategies, they are thinking about politics."

Some rebel groups have broken with the FSA and ignore the truce:

Several rebel groups have formally broken with the FSA to form outfits such as the Syrian Liberation Army, the Patriotic Army and The Alternative Movement, whose real identity and clout are hard to assess, because the government restricts media access to Syria.

The FSA has pledged to honor the shaky U.N.-backed truce that took effect on April 16 if the army reciprocates. But the Syrian Liberation Army says it will keep fighting.

"We don't accept the ceasefire. We have slowed down a bit, only because we don't have enough weapons," its spokesman, Haitham Qudeimati, told Reuters.

The Brotherhood is accused of holding back in the fights in order to save its forces for after Assad has fallen:

A 60-year-old rebel commander called Abu Shaham, from the central city of Hama, accused the Brotherhood of hanging back from the battlefront to overpower other rebel groups later.

"The Brotherhood is pumping money into the rebel units yet their men don't fight as much as us. They are almost always the first to retreat. Why?" he asked.

"They are not thinking about this phase in the battle. They care about what comes next. They want to save themselves for the struggle after Assad falls, to come out the strongest."

No article would be complete without some Western war mongers:

"If we don't recognize the rebels, anyone can set up shop in Turkey and start funding opposing groups," said Joseph Holliday, of the U.S-based Institute for the Study of War. "We don't know who is arming who ... I'm afraid by the time the West decides to do something it may be too late."

It looks like mr. Holliday forgot to analyze what happened in Libya.

Again we see here talk about the killing of traitors:

Suspicion of "fleas" - slang for collaborators - has bred an environment where vigilante killing almost seems the norm.

"There are a lot of groups on the ground working alone and not all of them are good guys," said rebel commander Abu Shaham.

"Some are thieves or criminals taking advantage of the chaos. So we go after the fleas and chase them out or kill them. We don't have a problem shooting these people."

Last month, the commander of a rebel unit in Homs province, Amjad al-Hameed, who claimed to be funded by The Alternative Movement, criticized the leaders of several other groups.

"We have armed men among our civilians that are a burden to our revolution," he told a crowd in a March 17 YouTube video. "They are just thieves ... It is impermissible for anyone to rape women, otherwise we are no different from Bashar al-Assad."

The next day, unidentified gunmen shot him dead. Hameed's battalion did not blame the government but other rebels, vowing to "punish them as they deserve."

We see again too a reference to a culture of distrust in Syria.

Qudeimati says most rebels do not belong to any unified group because of a culture of distrust, fostered by years of fear under Syria's infamous secret police.

"The problem is the Assad regime had 40 years to create mistrust between Syrians," Qudeimati said. "The lack of unity has been part of the regime's strategy."

I find that too easy. It works always both ways. The Assad regime wouldn't have been as oppressive if it hadn't been confronted with murderous Brotherhood in the past. And the misdeed by the rebels now sow distrust for many years to come.

BTW. there is also an increase in violence among the Shiites of Saudi Arabia. See Gunfights in Saudi Oil-Rich Province Show Spread of Iran Political Tension.

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