President Obama just regained his voice on things Syrian. Now we wait for him to acquire some willpower to act. True, contemplating intervention is never easy, and the U.S. is not meant to be the keepers of world order, but with great power comes great responsibility, there is no avoiding that, and what is unfolding in Syria today is a great humanitarian disaster that needs to be mitigated. The U.S. cannot turn its back on that indefinitely. At one point, it will be called upon to act. Its failure to do so earlier only served to make the task more complex, dangerous and thankless. The fact that a nonviolent protest movement was allowed to turn into an armed insurrection paving the way for civil war only increases the culpability of international leaders, including President Obama, and turns intervention, as complex and hazardous as it is bound to be, into an even greater moral must. I can only hope President Obama sees the light soon.
The Islamist-Kurdish Divide
New fronts in Syria’s civil war are now emerging. The first pits Islamist rebels against Syria’s Kurdish population. The current flashpoint is the Kurdish-majority town of Ras Al-Ain/Sere Kanye, currently under attack by over 1,500 Islamist fighters belonging to 16 different groups. Rebels are using tanks and RPGs in their assault and are showing the same kind of disregard to civilian populations that pro-Assad militias tend to show.
Meanwhile, the town is being defended by an assortment of Kurdish fighting units led by the YPG (Kurdish local defense committees which are ideologically lined to PKK). But other Kurdish groups are now involved, with Kurds fearing that the current attack comes as part of an Islamist/Arab strategy to take over and/or isolate all Kurdish-majority towns in the northeast. The fighting is fierce, Arab tribal are involved, and certain tribal members of the Syrian National Council seem involved in directing the fight against the Kurds, including ranking member Ahmad Hamad Al-Assad Al-Milhem. The fighting has been ongoing for ten days now, with over 150 dead on both sides. Turkish involvement is not clear, but protection afforded to the wounded from Islamist rebel groups when treated in Turkish hospitals indicate sympathies with Islamists. Many
Islamists rebels bury one of their own, as sounds of clashes can be heard in the background http://youtu.be/ZMErs-wQCCo
The Secular-Islamist Divide
A second front that is also developing slowly is one that pits Islamists fighters, including members of Jabhat Al-Nusra, against secular activists. Recent developments in the town of Saraqib, Idlib Province, give an accurate ideas as to what is involved at this stage.
Jihadists and Secular Activists Clash in Syria: “The dispute in Saraqib began when a group of masked men raided two organizations run by local activists, a new cultural club and a social work office, the activists said. At the second office, where Danish journalists and two visiting female Syrian activists were staying, the men seized fliers advocating nonviolence and ordered the group to leave town by sunrise, according to activists and one of the journalists, a filmmaker. The masked men were angry, the witnesses said, in part because the visiting Syrian activists were not covering their hair in accordance with the practice of many pious Muslims. The men also declared that they preferred foreign journalists entering the country to be men.”
On Friday, secular activists marked their rejection of the tactics of Jabhat Al-Nusra in their city, chanting “the Syrian people are one,” “God, Syria, Freedom and nothing more,” and hosting banners asserting the “civic” nature of the city irrespective of the number of guns now in it, and rejecting the presence of “masked men” in their midst http://youtu.be/CSiPub7Bgec
Meanwhile, criticism of Jabhat Al-Nusra’s tactics continues to mark a widening divide between secular and Islamist groups. Jabhat Al-Nusra has just adopted a suicide attack against a pro-Assad militia headquarters that took place in Salamiyeh, Hama, on January 21. The attack was controversial because it generated many civilian casualties as well, and on account of the highly mixed character of the City, where Christians, Alawites, Ismailites and Sunnis live. The announcement by Jabhat Al-Nusra was received with much naysaying on part of secular activists writing on their Facebook posts and on their blogs, and is bound to increasing tension between secular pro-democracy activists and Islamists rebels on the ground in many flashpoints across the country, but especially in so-called liberated areas.
Bearing all these divides in mind, and the one I just pointed out in my recent article in openDemocracy, the one that goes to the heart of the current situation, the dire predictions of Christian Caryl that the international community’s failure to act so far has set the scene for more killing to come in the near future seem quite logical…
“Because the fateful wheel of atrocity and reprisal, so familiar from past civil wars, is gathering momentum. It could hardly be any different, considering the scale of the killing so far. The Assad regime bears full responsibility for launching the carnage. But it does not bear sole responsibility for all the crimes that have been committed, and it will not bear sole responsibility for the crimes that are yet to come.”
We have lost Syria -- we've lost the good faith of its people and lost the opportunity to stem its decline. Everyone, everywhere we've reached has said the same thing: Stop the bleeding. This message speaks to wounds we cannot see and stories we can hardly fathom. But they will shape the Middle East for generations to come.
The battle for control over Idlib City’s Central Prison as seen from the point of view of a rebel unit affiliated with Suqur Al-Sham http://youtu.be/5RcNRPcFCkI
Rebels in Deir Ezzor City use a confiscated tank in an attack on a loyalist checkpoint http://youtu.be/Qt1FlvxYrW4 , http://youtu.be/UDYEstII6sE
A rebel attack against a loyalist headquarters in Mseifrah, Daraa http://youtu.be/c9NfAi_vNMM , http://youtu.be/QO4Nk41Ol90
The pounding of rebel suburbs in Homs City continues: Jobar http://youtu.be/5BX_WRWAGAs
Aerial bombardment of rebel suburbs in Damascus continues: Arbeen http://youtu.be/fcu76jeMCLY Al-Qadam http://youtu.be/4n5P3yG7IpM , http://youtu.be/sFBjX8DNJIQ Saqba http://youtu.be/gut9Fry2kJM
Rebels in Sheikh Saad Suburb in Aleppo City capture a number of key locations http://youtu.be/3AokMi6qr04 , http://youtu.be/CoNqC0pGnH0 , http://youtu.be/o3wRy-JLrJ8 , http://youtu.be/IUSjph9GnLQ