Despite worry over potential use of chemical weapons, rebels and loyalists continue their clashes. Fear is no longer a factor on the ground. If you’re not dead, you’re fighting. The fighting will outlast Assad himself, unless he launches a large-scale assault using chemical weapons. Then, what will Obama do? Will he intervene? What will intervention mean?
The New York Times asked whether the U.S. should recognize the National Coalition. This was my answer:
The question before us is not whether the United States should recognize the new coalition. Rather, it is how the U.S. can recognize what is essentially an Islamist opposition that refuses to provide any real guarantees on the future of the country, even as it lobbies for the provision of arms and international support.
There is more to acquiring recognition than providing a new facade. The U.S. should recognize the coalition only after it provides credible guarantees that it will match majority rule with minority rights, and address the concerns of the secular components of the opposition and the Syrian society at large.
The leaders of the opposition must realize that, in order to successfully lead a nation through the difficult transition ahead, they will have to represent the concerns and aspirations of all Syrians, irrespective of where they fall now on the political spectrum. Otherwise the new Syrian government will doom the country to more chaos and fragmentation.
Ed Hussein: Proceed With Caution - The U.S. should continue to stay one removed and allow for its allies to lead.
Rime Allaf: Too Little Too Late - Whether by design or by mistake, the Obama administration's hedging has diminished U.S. influence over Syrians.
Joshua Landis: As Good as It’s Going to Get - The big question that haunts the coalition today is how it will gain control of the armed elements of the revolution.
On rebel advances
On balance, several analysts argue the momentum has shifted in the rebels’ favor, particularly in light of their newly acquired surface-to-air weaponry. “Assad has been relying on air power to keep rebels pinned in their positions. Their ability to challenge this state of affairs has given them more confidence and enabled them to carry out bolder operations, as we are currently seeing in Damascus, Aleppo, Deir az-Zour and Daraa,” said Ammar Abdulhamid, an exiled Syrian activist and fellow at the Washington, DC-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. “The rebels are gradually breaking the stalemate and gaining the upper-hand […] A de facto no-fly zone is being created,” he told NOW…
Moreover, it is unclear how long the rebels’ surface-to-air missile (SAM) stocks can last. “Rebel operations and fighting capabilities have always been undermined by an unsteady flow of arms,” said Abdulhamid. “That a portion of the surface-to-air missiles in rebel possession seems to have been gained from looting the military bases that rebels conquered and not from external suppliers” means that “depletion is a serious concern.” …
According to Abdulhamid, while “the growing size and involvement of Jabhat al-Nusra is pretty worrying,” it remains heavily outnumbered by non-jihadist rebels. “Jabhat has its allies among rebels who share its vision for an Islamic state, but it has more enemies, as most rebel groups refuse to endorse [this] option.” Moreover, Abdulhamid foresees “clashes between Jabhat members and other rebel groups” taking place “after or even during the liberation of Damascus, [which] will ripple elsewhere in the country.”
As for the fears of chemical weapons use by the regime, Sayigh believes it is essentially a regime bluff. “[Assad] has been using the chemical weapons issue to sort of play a little game, to say ‘Look, we can make trouble, and equally we can prevent that trouble. If you want these to be secure, you need us, so they don’t fall into bad hands, i.e., Islamists.’”
Abdulhamid, however, argues the threat is credible. “The psychopathic tendencies of Assad and his inner circle have been amply documented by now. We cannot put anything beyond them. For all their manifest corruption, we are dealing here with people who seem to believe their own lies […] Assad might decide that he is a dead man no matter what happens, so he might as well die as a ‘hero’ of the resistance to imperialism and Zionism.”
In Harasta, Damascus, rebels parade a tank they have recently acquired http://youtu.be/WfY4eQOTTAI Meanwhile, the battles in Eastern Ghoutah continues http://youtu.be/omaSlX61l5A Madyara http://youtu.be/rkLULRdW7Bw Saqba http://youtu.be/bBSnlxuiVDM
In Deir Ezzor, rebels try to bring down a helicopter http://youtu.be/6JswES7GK_Y Elsewhere, clashes continue around the Mayadeen Military Airport http://youtu.be/rdNqwu5fvRo , http://youtu.be/uj_j7RpBsRg
In Mray-Iyeh, Deir Ezzor, cluster bombs are used http://youtu.be/3xSiEO7ISL4