|04-04-2013, 07:11 PM||#1|
مراسل صقور الأبداع من سوريا
تاريخ التسجيل: Mar 2013
المشاركات: 575معدل تقييم المستوى: 4
Syria’s rebels Entanglement at home and abroad
Mar 30th 2013 | BEIRUT
EARLIER this year things had been going rather well, militarily and politically, for Syria’s eternally fractious opposition and its rebel allies. Western governments had promised to channel more aid to the new Syrian National Coalition, an umbrella group in exile, for passing on to fighters battling Bashar Assad’s regime on the ground. Moaz al-Khatib, the coalition’s head, had emerged as a cannier and more popular politician than his predecessors seeking to unite Syria’s opposition. Yet on March 24th it was thrown into disarray when Mr Khatib resigned.
A widely respected former preacher at one of Damascus’s biggest mosques, Mr Khatib had become frustrated by the coalition’s refusal to broaden its membership and listen to new ideas. A case in point was the recent election of Ghassan Hitto to be prime minister of an interim government. Disgruntled members of the opposition accused the Muslim Brotherhood of empowering Mr Hitto, a hitherto little-known businessman who had spent many years in Texas. Several coalition members resigned in protest, while the head of the opposition’s military wing, Selim Idriss, said he would not accept Mr Hitto’s authority.
Mr Khatib, with an American nod, has been wary of forming an interim government, thinking that it would make it harder for the opposition to negotiate with the Syrian regime, which he had controversially declared himself open to doing. The Qataris and the Muslim Brotherhood, which apparently favour Mr Hitto, take a harder line, insisting that Mr Assad should go as a precondition for any negotiations.
Such turmoil could turn the coalition into “a dead body”, says Fawaz Tello, an independent member of the opposition. Rivalry between foreign backers is partly to blame, says Salman Shaikh, who heads the Qatari branch of the Washington-based Brookings Institution, a think-tank. The opposition took Syria’s official seat at an Arab League meeting on March 26th—in Qatar. Mr Khatib, however, still headed the Syrian delegation, perhaps a sign that Qatar recognises his importance.
In any event, Western governments may find it increasingly hard to influence the fighters in the field, let alone the opposition in exile. Recently the United States and several European countries have intensified their efforts to aid the rebels. Britain and France want to arm them, despite the recent refusal of the majority of European Union members to lift the current arms embargo.
The American administration remains loth to arm the opposition directly but the CIA has, at the least, been quietly sharing intelligence and training fighters. According to an investigation by the New York Times, the agency has been involved in a covert operation to arm the rebels and has been trying to vet the groups that receive arms through Turkey and Jordan, paid for by Gulf Arabs. It has also apparently sought to block the transfer of anti-aircraft weapons, lest they fall into jihadist hands.
According to Hugh Griffiths of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a Swedish think-tank, Qatari planes started to fly in weapons in January last year. Jordan and Saudi Arabia later got involved. The number of flights increased from December, with large consignments of weapons bought in Croatia. “At a conservative estimate they have transferred at least 3,500 tonnes,” says Mr Griffiths. “If it all were to get into Syria—which it hasn’t—it would definitely change the balance of power.”
One aim of Western policy is to counter Mr Assad’s allies, who are still trying to bolster his regime. America’s secretary of state, John Kerry, recently failed on a trip to Baghdad to persuade the Iraqi government to stop letting Iranian planes fly weapons through Iraq’s airspace. But some say Mr Assad has been getting fewer arms from Russia and Iran than the opposition has been getting from elsewhere. Hizbullah, the Lebanese party-cum-militia, may be helping Mr Assad to create an irregular force to fight alongside his army.
Western governments may be too late to achieve their aim of boosting moderates among the increasingly Islamist-leaning rebels. Islamist fighters, including Jabhat al-Nusra, which America considers a terrorist group, are better armed and organised. Some weapons, including M79 anti-tank missiles meant for more moderate groups, seem to have fallen into the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra and other Islamists.
As international involvement grows, Syria’s neighbours are struggling to avoid being dragged in. Turkey and Jordan fear that Mr Assad may retaliate against them. On March 26th Jordan closed its main border crossing with Syria.Two days before, Israel, which has kept out of the fight, fired a missile into Syria after its troops were shot at on the Golan Heights. Clashes have broken out in the Lebanese city of Tripoli, where Lebanese Sunni fighters allied to Syria’s rebels have become bolder. As foreigners get entangled, a risk is growing that Syria’s war will spill over its borders.
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