Liberating land without the ability to secure the air makes Syria a disintegrating state. But since no one has any plans for a no-fly zone, a failed state and an imploding region is what we have to contend with for years to come.
The “Aleppo” Elections
The fact that elections for the new ruling council in Aleppo took place in Gaziantep, Turkey, is in itself a clear indication of the virtual impossibility of establishing the mere semblance of normal governance in any of the liberated territories, so long as the skies are not safe. The elections that took place could not have been in any way shape or form representative of the real communal and political diversity in Aleppo City, and making too much out of it gives too much legitimacy to a group that plans to conduct its affairs on the basis of Sharia law without consulting or paying any difference to the existing civil code. The people did not rise up against the civil code, they rose up against corruption and authoritarianism. The intentions of the people who organized and took part in the elections are probably good, but they are limited by their ideological predilections, limited experience and social backgrounds.
So, let’s not spin this development: it’s actually a sign of how bad things are in Syria today, and a testament to how the international community is facilitating the rise of Islamists, moderates and extremists, through its indifference. Only a no-fly zone can enable people to organize reliable elections in liberated territories, thus ensuring adequate participation and representation. The Islamists might still dominate the political process, considering all that has taken place so far, but there is a difference between a 50% representation and a 90% representation.
Iran has taken command inside Syria and is maneuvering to create a new leadership structure; in the meantime Assad’s regime has crumbled to merely a façade. Evidence of this can be found most obviously in the 9 January prisoner swap between opposition and regime forces, as well as in the increased role Iran has recently been playing in military planning and operations…
… Further, Iran is building a sectarian Alawite- and Shia-majority militia, Ammar Abdulhamid, a pro-democracy Syrian activist based in Washington DC, and the head of the Tharwa Foundation, tells NOW. Abdulhamid believes this new militia will seek to maintain old alliances with minority communities, loyalist Sunni clans and groups, while attempting to forge new ones in the future among potential ‘rogue’ rebel units who would be more interested in carving out turf for themselves than in the fate of the country.
“At this stage,” adds Abdulhamid, “Assad is a mere placeholder. Despite the all-too-real cult of personality that surrounds Assad in the ranks of the Alawite community, this does not ensure his long-term survival. Iran eventually wants a group that will be beholden to [it] first, not to Assad,” says Abdulhamid.
The “liberation” of Raqqa City
The rebels in charge of the liberation were all members of Jabhat Al-Nusra, Ahrar Al-Sham and the Syrian Islamic Front.
Protesters in Raqqa City bring down a giant statue of Hafiz Al-Assad soon after rebels entered in the city http://youtu.be/85uiTAjIN-A , http://youtu.be/zO2WRlepeKQ , http://youtu.be/85uiTAjIN-A But they soon came under mortar fire from pro-regime forces still active in the outskirts of the city http://youtu.be/leEbu51Et-4 , http://youtu.be/sSojL9Y0cEA The dead and wounded line the streets http://youtu.be/0e1NJyiVGxI
Scenes from the last battles that preceded the liberation of the city: an attack on a local police headquarters (Hajjaneh) http://youtu.be/IA7iwOyDxe4 Rebels claim victory http://youtu.be/f5bgZeZBTXQ Then proceed to liberate another checkpoint inside the City’s perimeters http://youtu.be/WRCRlOf8TMY A victory parade http://youtu.be/GbYn24z06_w , http://youtu.be/28ufMYXkLo0 Rebels take over the local security headquarters http://youtu.be/Ryou6NYqgnE Rebels protest the local archeological museum http://youtu.be/EnbSShfMT54 Then move to secure the Governor’s Palace http://youtu.be/tQyPbCqj2As The Governor, Hassan Salih Jalali, and the local Baath leader are arrested http://youtu.be/T9RJ0fzWiCc
Destroying a picture of Khamenei found in a local security headquarters http://youtu.be/7lgITlPIVmI
Pro-Assad militias are not giving up though, and they have formed their own resistance group to fight back http://youtu.be/MpVOz1zuRRo
In Raqqa’s second largest city of Tabaqa, rebels clash with remnant of the regime forces http://youtu.be/6b4o9Ge44JU , http://youtu.be/fm5UfRormcc
Col. Abdel-Jabbar Al-Oqaidi inspects the siege of Minnigh Airport, Aleppo http://youtu.be/Zmrs4yeegew Rebels continue their siege http://youtu.be/Ucpo4jzLaE0 and prepare for the final assault http://youtu.be/jNvkSA5Ysds Rebels pounding the military airport of Kuweiris http://youtu.be/tb81mcJuB8w
In the town of Shdadi, Hassakeh Province, rebels bring down the regime’s flags from the local oilfield installation http://youtu.be/Amdxgm3CCtk and celebrate their victory with Jabhat Al-Nusra cries of “Our eternal leader is our Master Muhammad” http://youtu.be/293s9KeEDUw
Rebels control the Yaroubiya Border Checkpoint with Iraq http://youtu.be/G7GfoUEBAQs
The attack on the rebel strongholds in central Homs City intensifies http://youtu.be/R4NGYHp1FEk