A revolution starts with a “no,” but can only end with a “yes.” So far, no serious discussion has been made to get us there.
The recent announcements by Col. Riad Al-Asaad, head of the Free Syrian Army, that he has moved operations inside Syria needs to be put in perspective. So does the call for the overthrow of the Assad regime by an opposition figure based in Damascus.
Regarding the first instance, we need to bear in mind that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is nothing more than a brand name employed at one point by rebels to reflect an image of unity in the hope of turning it into a reality. But, a year after the onset of the armed phase of the Syrian Revolution, the hope for unity remains elusory. The FSA does not represent an actual command structure for the rebels. Very much like its political counterpart, the Syrian National Council (SNC), it has long developed into an institution that has little relevance on the ground. People continue to invoke and perhaps even venerate the name, but in no way does this translate into allegiance to the FSA leadership in Antakya.
Rebel groups operating inside the country owe their allegiance to their various civilian leaders who emerged from their midst. Except in few instances, defectors from the regular army have a supporting role at best. Respect is reserved mostly for those officers who elected to stay in Syria following their defection. People like Brig. Gen. Mustafa Al-Shaikh, head of the High Military Council, and Col. Riad Al-Asaad, head of the Free Syrian Army, among the dozens of officers and generals who sought refuge in Turkey following their defection lost much credibility and relevance as a result. Their failure to play a major role in supplying rebels on the ground with arms did not help their case.
Over the last few months, the officers have been busy trying to ingratiate themselves to local rebel leaders in the hope of gaining allegiance. Their sales pitch is premised on two things: their experience as military commanders, and the fact that without professional officers on board the international community will continue to dither when it comes to supporting the rebels. Rebel leaders to understand that, and over the last few weeks, they began encouraging Antakya-based officers to Syria at least for brief sojourns in order to survey the situation, provide advice and gain some trust, if not some allegiance. Brig. Gen. Al-Shaikh among other generals and officers from the High Military Council have been making visits to Syria and meeting with local rebel leaders for weeks now. The announcement by Col. Al-Asaad http://youtu.be/0Celzfe6HGI regarding moving the FSA to Syria is nothing more than an act of one-upmanship in the ongoing competition between the two men. On the ground, it has little relevance, as both men continue to lack any real authority, albeit the majority of rebel leaders seem to prefer Al-Shaikh and his right-hand man Col. Abdul Jabbal Al-Oqaidi, to Al-Asaad. Al-Shaikh has been able to play a better role in channeling some support to groups on the ground and his secular leanings endeared him to the traditional rebel leaders who continue to lead the larger groups. It is not clear, however, whether Islamists will throw their support behind Col. Al-Asaad, though it is highly unlikely that he would have made his move without some support from rebels.
In the second instance, the opposition group that organized the conference in Damascus and called for the overthrow of Assad is the National Coordination Body, a leftist political coalition with little support among rebels and rebel communities. In fact, the NCB doesn’t even have much influence among nonviolence activists, not to mention rebels. Its early involvement in nonviolent protests has always been marginal. Its younger cadres have long grown disillusioned with existing leadership figures such as Hassan Abdul Azim and Haitham Al-Manna who excel in highlighting what they don’t like about the current situation, but fail to provide any convincing proposal as to how it can be changed. They excel in rejection and fail in affirmation.
At this stage, the Assad regime will allow NCB to call for anything it wants, so long as it also stands against foreign intervention, even while ingratiating itself to Iran, Russia and China, and speaks against the armed opposition. But, should the regime ever be ready to negotiate, it will have to negotiate with rebel groups, not with the NCB, the SNC or even the Antakya-based FSA leadership, because it’s the rebels who can actually deliver. An agreement with NCB, or even the SNC or FSA, will amount to nothing if not endorsed by rebel groups. The regime knows that. Assad is not ready to negotiate. He still believes he can win.
Leaked video showing pro-Assad security torturing detainees http://youtu.be/4d4TANdu93s
Dead and wounded reported in Qubtan Al-Jabal, Aleppo Province, following an intense nighttime shelling http://youtu.be/2AZxgAiFWW8 In nearby Bayanoun, the town was pounded by MIGs http://youtu.be/FTWCSw1H6tg MIGs also targeted Marei http://youtu.be/43IPV-vMzlo , http://youtu.be/6JGB7kiXlLM
In Damascus City, smoke rises over the neighborhood of Al-Zahirah http://youtu.be/6mUGdkYcGuk In the suburb of Kafar Batna, an aerial raid leave many dead and wounded http://youtu.be/QX6--nfbVjI
The activist group Nahel Al-Sahel, prepares leaflets for distribution in Alawite villages along the coast. Some of the slogans “Shabiha have always been thugs, how come they are considered heroes now?” and “Why do authorities refuse to let you open the coffin to inspect your dead son’s body?” (The implication is that he was shot execution style to prevent him from defecting) http://youtu.be/dQ6lf_kbFs0