Sunday, 30 September 2012

Cuba, Baghdad and turning Aleppo to rubble & ash

Aleppo's souks on fire (Photo from BBC News)

Raging battles between Syrian government forces and rebels in the historic districts of central Aleppo have started a major fire that threatens to destroy the city's medieval markets.
Reports say hundreds of shops in the souk, one of the best preserved in the Middle East, have been destroyed.
The labyrinth of narrow alleys lined with shops was once a major tourist attraction, but has been the scene of near-daily firefights and shelling in recent weeks, after rebels who fought their way into the city two months ago pushed toward its center.
Some activists described the overnight blaze as the worst blow yet to a district that helped make the heart of Aleppo, Syria's largest city and commercial hub, a UNESCO world heritage site.
The fire started late Friday amid heavy government shelling and was still burning Saturday, activists told The Associated Press. Video posted online showed a pall of smoke hanging over the city.
One Aleppo-based activist, Ahmad al-Halabi, estimated the fire destroyed a majority of the shops in the district.
"It's a disaster. The fire is threatening to spread to remaining shops," said al-Halabi, speaking to AP from the stricken area by telephone. He claimed Syrian authorities cut the water supply off the city, making it more difficult to put out the fire. He said rebels and civilians were working together to control the fire with a limited number of fire extinguishers.
"It is a very difficult and tragic situation there," he said.
The souks -- a maze of vaulted passageways with shops that sell everything from foods, fabrics, perfumes, spices and artisan souvenirs -- lie beneath Aleppo's towering citadel where activists say regime troops and snipers have taken up positions.
Many of the shops have wooden doors, and clothes, fabrics and leather inside helped spread the fire, activists said.
"It's a big loss and a tragedy that the old city has now been affected," Kishore Rao, director of UNESCO's World Heritage Center, told AP.
In awarding heritage status, UNESCO said Aleppo's "13th-century citadel, 12th-century Great Mosque and various 17th-century madrasas, palaces, caravanserais and hammams all form part of the city's cohesive, unique urban fabric."
The Guardian says Aleppo's souks are not the only Syrian cultural treasures to have fallen victim to the violence following the country's uprising and the crackdown by the Assad regime.
Some of the country's most significant sites, including centuries-old fortresses, have been caught in the crossfire in battles between regime forces and rebels. Others have been turned into military bases. In Homs, where up to 7,000 are estimated to have died, historic mosques and souk areas have also been smashed and artifacts stolen.
In his Aleppo-related column this morning for the leading Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat, the peerless Samir Atallah writes of “Cuba, Baghdad and Aleppo.”
In his words, as rephrased from Arabic:
Politics has many rules that are mostly uncivil and unethical. Rules in politics often prioritize interests over humans. The latter are at times sacrificed on account of concern or cowardice.
Cuba was at one point the Soviet Union’s Number One ally -- a Communist island nation (just 90 miles) off U.S. shores. Moscow, for Cuba’s sake, risked a nuclear war that could have devastated the world.
A while later, America started instigating East Europe against the Soviets. As soon as it felt America’s grip tightening around its neck, Moscow counseled Fidel Castro to stop backing Communist movements in Latin America.
Though he fancied painting the whole southern hemisphere red, Castro desisted – not so much to avoid irritating Moscow but for fear of an American-Soviet deal at his expense. Who says Russia won’t close its eyes to an American invasion of Cuba such as America let pass the Soviets’ occupation of Prague?
“Today’s Iraq” resembles the “1960s Cuba.” Today’s Iraq has ideological ties with Iran. It also complies with demands from its American ally, who signed away at the White House the State of Law Coalition to the epitome of democracy, Nouri al-Maliki.
When Barack Obama’s busy schedule prevented him from flying to Baghdad, Maliki hopped over to Washington to receive the freedom keys. And as soon as he returned to Baghdad, Maliki refocused on reconciling his old crush on Iran with new American constraints. That’s why when America told him Iran should stop using Iraqi airspace to fly arms to Syria, he listened to his head, not his heart – or so it seems.
In the Syria war, each has a tie-in. We don’t need to know them all today. We could get to know them after a while or when it is too late. But there is certainly a link-in-the-chain that makes Hilary Clinton talk more like a political analyst from The Times than a secretary of state.
There is another tie-in that makes China stand by Russia against Arab states and their Arab League, Europe and the Muslim-world-minus-Iran.
In politics, no rule prevents the monitoring of developments on the ground to gauge the power balance instead of to take care of victims. That’s why no one sees the Bombing of Aleppo as akin to the Bombing of Dresden.
In 1975, Suleiman Franjieh sent two rusting Hawker Hunter warplanes to bomb Palestinian refugee camps. The outcry in the Arab world saw the fighter-bomber jets hangared again.
Each day, loathsome MIGs take to Syria’s skies to pound cities and turn Aleppo neighborhoods into piles of rubble and ash.
Meantime, the world at the United Nations still has to listen to the speeches of Sergei Lavrov.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Syria repeats threat to use chemical weapons

Image of the Kornet missile set up on its tripod
Says it might also deliver Kornet missiles to all Kurds to fight Turkey 

Syria has again made clear it would use its deadly chemical and biological weapons if it were attacked by outside Arab, Turkish or Western forces.
Damascus is also serving notice it would provide a Russian-made Kornet anti-tank guided missile to every Turkish and Syrian Kurd to fight Turkey in case it openly intervened militarily in Syria.
Hezbollah, which is Syria and Iran’s cat’s-paw in Lebanon, relayed the double-barreled Syrian forewarning on its Al-Manar portal this morning.
The new caution follows Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s revelation in his interview with U.S. journalist Charles Rose broadcast on Thursday that Moscow helped broker American-Syrian contacts on security issues related to Damascus’ chemical and biological stockpiles.
“I hope that I disclose no big secret by saying that we [Russians] were helping American experts to come into contact with Syrians on this issue, and that we got explanations and assurances that the Syrian government safeguards these facilities with chemical weapons in the best way,” Lavrov said in the interview.
Syrians have moved some of their chemical weapons capability to better secure it, but the country’s main chemical weapons sites remain intact and secure under government control, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the day after, citing U.S. intelligence. 

“There has been some intelligence that with regards to some of these sites that there has been some movement in order for the Syrians to better secure ... the chemicals,” Panetta told a Pentagon news conference with his Canadian counterpart, according to Reuters. “So while there’s been some limited movement, again the major sites still remain in place, still remain secure.”
“We still believe, based on what we know and what we’re monitoring, that the principal sites remain secure,” he said.

Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile is the largest in the Middle East, but its precise scope remains unclear, according to analysts.

The regime said in July it might use its chemical weapons if attacked by outside countries, although not against its own people.

Here is how Hezbollah relayed this morning the Syrian regime’s warning:
“The U.S. delegation to the 67th session of the UN General Assembly sought to contact the Syrian delegation through Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Arab sources in France told al-Manar the United States wanted to discuss the weapons of mass destruction in Syria’s possession.
“According to the sources, the Syrians gave assurances, endorsed by Russia, that chemical and biological weapons won’t be used under any circumstances in Syria in the course of the ongoing fighting between the Syrian state and the armed opposition, which is backed by the United States directly and through its Arab and Turkish allies in the region.
“The Arab sources said the Syrian delegation reiterated the weapons in question are secure and safe and won’t be used except if Syria faced outside military intervention. Only in such a case would the countries inciting and participating in any kind of aggression against Damascus become a legitimate target for Syrian missiles with chemical and biological warheads, including unspecified countries neighboring Syria.
“The Arab sources said Turkey and Israel were in the gunsight of unconventional Syrian missiles in the event the Syrian Arab Republic confronted outside military intervention as proposed by Qatar’s Emir at the United Nations and backed up as expected by Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby.
“In the same context, Syrian Kurdish sources close to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Syrian offshoot, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), said Syria notified Turkey of the following: any Turkish meddling in Syria -- now at the stage of direct military intervention across the border and in Idlib -- will push Syria to arm every Kurd in Turkey and Syria with a missile. The Kurdish source said Syria is seriously tending to provide the Kurds with heavy and advanced weapons, such as Kornet missiles the Kurds need for their war against Turkey. Delivering such military hardware to the PKK would change the face of the conflict in the Qandil Mountains.”

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Arab Spring at the UN General Assembly

Clockwise, Obama, Morsi, Hollande & Ahmadinejad
Obama trots, Ahmadinejad takes leave, Morsi tries

By Zuhair Qusaibati, writing today for pan-Arab al-Hayat

The Arab Spring at the UN General Assembly for a second year…
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses world leaders like reading an election statement before jogging back to his campaign.
For President Mohamed Morsi, a star on U.S. screens for a few days, the UN General Assembly is an occasion to reassure the world, especially Americans, that Egypt’s Muslim Brothers are not the siblings of either Somalia’s ash-Shabab, who are threatening to kill all elected members of parliament, or of the Jihadists described in a New York subway advertisement as “savages” who cannot be compared to “civilized man.”
The trip by Morsi to New York being his first foray into public relations with world leaders, and the rush by Obama to return to his reelection campaign, salted away the embarrassment of a first meeting between the superpower leader and the head of an Arab heavyweight country that is neither an enemy nor an ally of the United States.
In his first appearance on the global stage, the Egyptian president insisted on notifying Americans that he was no more a Muslim Brotherhood leader but the head of a non-sectarian and non-military state.
Morsi did not miss the opportunity of responding to Obama’s message complaining of protests around the American Embassy in Cairo by reminding the Democratic Administration that Egypt would no more rubber-stamp U.S. foreign policy.
The second star -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- is not running to another term in office after his brouhaha at home killed all his chances. He thus had no qualms about ignoring the advice of his host, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who seemingly reminded him that the General Assembly is not Tehran University and that bombastic slogans gain no currency in an audience of over 100 world statesmen.
While Morsi justifiably took his chances with the Americans to at least decouple the question of U.S. economic aid from Egypt’s pursuit of its traditional Arab policies, Ahmadinejad’s eclipse was evident. Only Israel exploited his rhetoric (“the destruction of Israel”) to blackmail the Obama Administration.
Obama did not ignore Iran’s nuclear ambitions despite weeklong protests around U.S. embassies over the anti-Islam film. He did not dwell much on the film controversy, which was on everyone’s mind at the General Assembly.
But Obama called on addressing the fallouts of the film controversy on relations between the West and the Arab world. He did so circuitously, putting the onus of finding a remedy on the region, in spite of his salute to the Arab Spring.
In fact, the superpower leader pledged the Arab Spring nothing – not even easing its passageway on the Syria track.
Likewise, his undertaking to abort Iran’s nuclear bomb ambitions echoed his attempts to win the U.S. Jewish vote after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ran out of efforts to drive a wedge between the Democratic Administration and American Jewish voters.
Obama hurried back to his reelection campaign after making creation of an “independent Palestine” conditional on recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and Israel agreeing to an independent Palestine. Can anyone think of a more generous promise to win hearts in the Jewish lobby that succeeded in erasing all traces of Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo?
For his part, French President Francois Hollande, who stood out in expressing his sympathy with Syrians in their slaughterhouse, is aware – like all other Western leaders – that his tears won’t save a child or a woman in Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Damascus so long as Vladimir Putin is able to raise his finger for a UN Security Council veto that would leave Syrians to their fate.
Even in the UN General Assembly, Palestine seemed lukewarm and beleaguered Syria looked destined for a long agony.
Since its inception, the United Nations was never the ideal place for agreements or for keeping world peace, despite all the noble and fair phraseology in the UN Charter.
If justice were an earthly human goal endorsed by democracies, the chase for democracy should start in the Security Council, where veto tyranny rules.  
One finger raised in the Security Council can perpetuate massacres, whether the veto expresses a veiled convergence of interests absolving other members of the big powers’ club from protecting civilians or maintaining a measure that is out of date 60 years after the demise of the League of Nations.
Westerners urging democratic reform in the stumbling Orient would do better to fix the rudder steering world affairs.
Even in the UN General Assembly, Palestine seems lukewarm and Syria looks like following suit. Children crying over other children corpses are mere images.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Is Iran’s Khamenei set to blemish the Hajj?

King Abdullah laying the foundation stone to expand the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina (SPA)
A call by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Muslims making the Hajj to protest the U.S.-made anti-Islam film defaming Prophet Muhammad risks marring this year’s pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Iranian media quoted Khamenei was instructing Iranian Hajj officials in Tehran yesterday, “The wrath of Muslims towards the ‘Arrogance Front’ should be displayed in Hajj, which is the center of congregation of all Muslims from across the world.”
The Hajj – the annual pilgrimage in which some three million Muslims converge on Mecca – is one of the five pillars of Islam that must be performed at least once in a lifetime by all Muslims able to do so.
The peak of this year’s Hajj is expected to take place on or near October 26.
While the Hajj has not been marred by violence since 1987, this year’s pilgrimage comes amid heightened tensions between Shiite Iran and Sunnite Saudi Arabia, chiefly over the Syria war, the unrest in Bahrain, militant Shiite politics in the Gulf, and the viselike grip of Iran’s surrogates on Iraq and Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly warned pilgrims over the years not to stage protests at the Hajj, a challenge to Tehran, which believes the event has spiritual plus political dimensions.
In 1987, Iranian pilgrims clashed with Saudi police during an anti-U.S. protest at the Hajj, resulting in the deaths of 402 people.
There have been no major Shiite protests since then.
In 2007, when bilateral relations were better, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made the Hajj himself. But he stayed away from a rally held by several hundred Iranian pilgrims.
After the protest by Iranian pilgrims during the 1987 Hajj, Saudi Arabia set a quota of 1,000 pilgrims per million inhabitants in each Islamic country. 
This gives Iran today a quota of some 74,000 pilgrims.
Given the tensions, is Khamenei ramping up toward another clash? Possibly not, but don’t be surprised if there is one.
Saudi King Abdullah, for his part, yesterday laid the foundation stone for the largest expansion of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.
The three-phased project will increase the mosque’s capacity to 800,000 worshippers in the first phase.

Syria children traumatized by Assad atrocities

Shocking testimony collected from refugees in camps outside Syria has revealed that children have been killed, maimed, and tortured in the country's brutal civil war. They've also witnessed the deaths of parents, siblings, other children, and torture

Tuesday 25 September 2012
Today we’re releasing Untold Atrocities, a collection of first-hand accounts of the conflict from children and parents receiving help from Save the Children after fleeing Syria. 
The accounts contain graphic details of how children have been caught up in Syria's war - witnessing massacres and in some cases, experiencing torture.
Some of the harrowing testimony is captured in the slideshow below:

Our teams are working to help children come to terms with the devastating psychological impact of their experiences, providing specialist support to children showing signs of distress, including self-harm, nightmares and bedwetting.
We're also calling for the UN to step up its documentation of all violations of children’s rights in Syria and that it should have more resources to do this, so that crimes against children are not committed with impunity.
Specialist support needed
Our chief executive Justin Forsyth, who has just returned from Jordan where he met children who have suffered horrific experiences, said: “No child should ever see the horrors being described on a daily basis to our staff on the ground -- stories of torture, murder and terror.
"They need specialist emotional support to come to terms with these shocking experiences, and their stories need to be heard and documented so those responsible for these appalling crimes against children can be held to account."
Today we launch a campaign to ensure the crimes against Syria's children are counted: please sign our petition to the UN Secretary-General.
We've also started an appeal for money to fund our work with Syrian refugee children: you can donate here.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Mideast playmakers waiting for a reelected Obama

Obama and Turkey's Erdogan (top) and Iran's Ahmadinejad greeting Egypt's Morsi in Tehran

Like many other regional leaders, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Mohamed Morsi are biding their time, waiting on news of Barack Obama’s most likely re-election.
The Turkish premier and Egyptian president realize that before the United States president wins a second term on November 6, he won’t let any foreign policy issue interfere with his reelection campaign.
Frida Ghitis, a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review, wrote in a special comment for CNN last month: “If Barack Obama could make three wishes, he would probably ask for the crisis in Syria to go away…
“Unfortunately for Obama, and tragically for the people in Syria, history has brought the American presidential campaign and the Syrian revolution to the same pages of the calendar. That means Obama will do whatever he can, for as long as he can, to keep the carnage in Syria from interfering with his reelection plan.
“That means the killings in Syria could go on longer than if the uprising had erupted during a nonelection year…
“The Obama administration has put other major foreign policy issues on the back burner in order to avoid giving Republicans fodder for criticism, to prevent new risks to the economy, or simply to avoid stepping on a landmine while moving along a dangerous global landscape.
“A report in Britain's Sunday Times claims that the White House asked Israel to delay an attack on Iran until after November. Many fear that a war with Iran would send oil prices skyrocketing and hurt Obama's reelection prospects. Sometimes history has lousy timing. And presidents don't get to make three wishes…”
Turkish columnist Gökhan Bacik, writing for Today’s Zaman, says some six weeks before the U.S. presidential elections “Middle East politics has fallen perfectly silent.” It’s the sort of quiet you would expect in a waiting room.
Comparing the political lull in the region to an interval between the death of a pope and the election of his successor, Bacik notes that “all actors are waiting for the results” of the U.S. presidential vote. And “Turkey is no exception.”
Erdogan, he says, wants to retrace five issues with a reelected Obama: Syria, Turkish-Israeli relations, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Islamism in the region, and Iraq’s Nouri al-Maliki.
On Syria, some suggest a reelected Obama could take a strong leadership role to bring about regime change there. Others believe he could “at least help Turkey create some sort of security zone in northern Syria. Expectations vary, but there is one clear point: Ankara's first demand from Obama in his second term is to revisit the American position on Syria.”
On relations with Israel, says Bacik, Ankara expects the new Obama administration to prod the Jewish state to apologize to Ankara “for the deadly Mavi Marmara flotilla raid.”
Concerning the PKK, the anticipation relates to military matters. “In this area,” Bacik explains, “it is vital for Turkey to obtain more sophisticated technical support from the U.S. Ankara’s particular demand is for U.S.-made Predators that would help Turkey overcome its intelligence deficit in its struggle with the PKK. Similarly, serious military reform is needed, as there has been no substantive technological purchase in the last 10 years. Turkey is without even the necessary number of Cobra helicopters. Ankara knows very well that its military arsenal is far more limited than is ideal...”
Fourthly, “Ankara hopes Obama would help Turkey oust Nouri al-Maliki from office in Baghdad. For Ankara, Maliki has become the biggest structural threat to Turkey's regional position… Purging Maliki from politics is a main goal of Turkish foreign policy...”
Finally, according to Bacik, Ankara hopes a new Obama administration would continue supporting the legitimate participation of Islamists in the region’s political power play, “as in Egypt.”
While it seems fair to say no world leader has a greater stake in Obama’s reelection than the Turkish prime minister, can the same be said of Egypt’s Islamist president?
Leading Lebanese political analyst Sarkis Naoum, writing for Beirut’s independent daily an-Nahar, detects signs of a disconnect developing between Obama and Egypt’s Islamist President Morsi.  
Asked if he considered Egypt an ally of the United States, Obama balked earlier this month. “You know, I don’t think that we would consider them an ally but we don’t consider them an enemy,” he said in an interview after protests outside the American Embassy in Cairo.
The State Department later reaffirmed somewhat awkwardly that Egypt is an ally. Egypt was designated by Congress in 1989 to be a Major Non-NATO ally along with Australia, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and New Zealand.
Naoum sees Morsi perhaps seeking to establish a foreign policy that is independent of Washington. “He has taken important steps that have already raised eyebrows in Washington.”
Among such steps, says Naoum, “were his visits, first to China and then Iran, and his participation in the Non-Aligned Movement conference in Tehran… when the U.S. is on a sharp collision course with the Islamic Republic” over its nuclear ambitions.
Wondering if Morsi would normalize relations and restore diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic broken in 1980, Naoum writes:
“No one knows for sure. He might, especially if he felt Iran was prepared to abandon ambitions of becoming the region’s national, religious and economic hegemon and disown Syria’s Bashar al-Assad…
“But before taking such a step, Morsi has to take the following into account: (1) Iran won’t be feeding his country’s poor, or about 20-to-30 percent of his people, now living on average per capita income of two U.S. dollars per day (2) Iran won’t return tourism to Egypt (3) Iran won’t solve Egypt’s internal problem of sectarianism (4) Iran won’t settle mounting differences between Egypt’s moderate Islamist and Salafists (5) While Obama did not believe Egypt was an ally, Washington might end up designating it an enemy.
“Can Morsi bear such enmity?”

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Afghan ills in the Syrian revolution

By Jamal Khashoggi
The author is a leading Saudi media figure who served as media aide to Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud while he was ambassador to the United Kingdom and to the United States. He was named by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud to head his upcoming AlArab TV news channel. Khashoggi wrote this think piece in Arabic for today’s edition of pan-Arab al-Hayat.

By Syrian artist Wissam Al Jazairy
Gloom regarding the Syria crisis is justified. Preparing for the worse is also warranted.
When international troubleshooter for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi chooses to forsake his main peacemaking task to visit refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, it means he has no idea what to do.
He wants to seem active until God wills the predestined.
Likewise, when Saudi Arabia stays away from the foreign ministers’ meeting of the regional quartet (composed of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran) that was proposed by Egypt to solve the Syria crisis, it means the kingdom has lost hope.
If the quartet’s objective is to change Iran’s stance, chances of this happening are nil.
Iran is in Bashar’s boat, even at the price of sinking with him.
If the quartet’s purpose is to find a solution to the Syria crisis, how can Iran deliver a humdinger that escaped the 100-nation Friends of Syria, the Arab League and the United Nations?
The mere existence of this quartet is cause for pessimism.
The Egyptians and Turks now know the quartet is doomed, not because Saudi Arabia opted out but because of Iran’s shenanigans.
For instance, the commander-in-chief of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said members of his elite force are in Syria to provide non-military assistance. He also said Iran won’t intervene militarily in Syria to help the regime.
An official Iranian spokesperson later denied the remarks, saying Tehran would not allow the so-called “axis of resistance” – of which Syria is an essential pillar – to fall.
Basically, you don’t know what the Iranians are denying or confirming.
They insolently announced in Cairo a Syria ceasefire. They made it conditional on cutting off assistance to the opposition and launching a dialogue leading to “reform and consolidation of democracy” in Syria.
So long as we are unto a long-lasting battle, it is worthwhile to draw some parallels between the situation in Syria and the Afghan jihad.
The situation in Syria and the Afghan jihad are becoming ever more comparable by the day.
The Syrians hate such a comparison for obvious reasons.
They dread the “Afghanization” of their country and their struggle.
Counting the 10 years of Afghan jihad against the Soviet occupation, another two years of fighting against the Kabul government left in place by the Soviets and the subsequent years of civil war until this day, you arrive at a total of 33 years of hardships.
The Syrian revolution is only one-and-a-half years old and there seems little hope of it ending soon.
Conflicts among militias can last years. We had a precedent in Lebanon.
We see the Free Syrian Army gaining control of the Salahuddin neighborhood in Aleppo, then losing it, then recapturing it.
That’s how militia wars go.
At the same time, the weight of militia numbers alarms backers, making them deny the militias indispensable weapons.  
For instance, the militias need man-portable air-defense systems or MANPADS to challenge the regime’s air power, which is killing far more civilians than rebels.
U.S. fears of weapons falling into the wrong hands, for instance, hampered delivery to the rebels of some 100 MANPADS contributed by Gulf countries.
The Americans want to see specific controls in place before the weapons get forwarded to the insurgents.
But putting such controls in place is impossible in a country where security has totally collapsed, which is the trademark of all armed revolutions.
Strategists turn naïve or dreamers on occasion. They overlook the merit of past experience. A look at their old files would show the Afghan jihad tribulations that are now manifest in Syria:
### Every attempt to unify the rebels will give rise to a new organization. Some members of the old Free Syrian Army would refuse to integrate with the new Syrian National Army, consequently undermining both organizations and their respective brigades. International backers would then be at a loss as to which of the two is a safe bet.
### Unlike the French, the Syrians can’t agree on a Charles de Gaulle. They are more like the Afghans if not worse. They all think they are leaders.
### Information from inside Syria is consistently contradictor and mostly exaggerated, especially on matters of money and the apportionment of arms.
### A media savvy group is not necessarily the more active on the ground. A group with more video footage on You Tube does not mean it is the strongest.
### Middlemen claiming to know the playing field well do know their contacts thoroughly. But they are totally ignorant of the rest. As a result, they would channel assistance to their contacts, bypassing those they don’t know. The donor country using the middleman is immediately accused of bias and of dividing rebel ranks, if not of conspiring against the revolution.
### The revolution is for honorable men and women and freedom lovers. But it is also an arena for opportunists, dealers, turncoats and even criminals.
### The idea of unifying rebel ranks inside Syria, though overly utopian, should be pursued, since opening a door halfway is better than keeping it shut. At a minimum, coordination would suffice and is achievable thanks to the (non-lethal) equipment (such as encrypted radios and satellite imagery) provided by the Americans and the French. The difficulty in unifying the rebels lies in their variegated provenance. Army defectors come from diverse units at various times. Civilians come from all walks of life and include students, laborers and farmers. Some are religious, others not. Some are politicized, others are not interested in politics, their sole aim being to get rid of the regime. It will always be difficult to group everyone under a single command and control center.
### Don’t believe whoever says the Muslim Brotherhood is the largest faction inside Syria. Don’t believe either whoever says the opposite. The Brotherhood’s political weight can only be known after free and transparent elections are held in Syria. But no state should withhold assistance to the Syrian revolution pending an answer to this $64,000 question.
### “One Address” (with which to coordinate with the Syrian revolution) won’t attract cash and assistance to all sides. Previous experience shows that creation of “One Address” is impossible.
The Syrian revolution has succeeded so far in shutting out al-Qaeda. Even the hard line Salafist groups funded by non-government Gulfites refused to be lured into expressing empathy for al-Qaeda.
At the same time, prolongation of the crisis is exasperating Syrians, as evidenced by their pelting of Brahimi’s motorcade with stones during his visit to a Syrian refugee camp.
After mulling over the regime’s brutality and the free world’s indifference, the Syrian people have come to equate diplomacy with procrastination.
The Syrian people are increasingly convinced that the world has let them down.
Their anger and the aforementioned Afghan ills could open the door to the sort of extremism that outside intelligence and military agencies are trying to forestall.
But their quest has made them reluctant to take action and supply weapons that would settle the battle. In a way, they are shunning something they created by their own hesitation and deferment.