Militia a Growing Part of Syria's Civil War
forces have essentially ousted the rebel forces from the town of
Qusayr along the Lebanese border after a protracted and bloody
battle, and only a small remnant of the town remains under rebel
marked the first high-profile use of Hezbollah fighters in an
offensive role, as the group had previously participated in
side-battles and positioned its forces to defend Shi’ite villages
and religious sites.
rebels had been using Qusayr as a means of smuggling supplies in
across the Lebanese border, and repeatedly attacked Lebanese sites in
retaliation for Hezbollah’s involvement in the battle.
rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) says that the involvement amounts to a
and its leadership claimed over 7,000 Hezbollah fighters have crossed
the border,more than Hezbollah is believed to have overall by most
estimates. They also claimed Hezbollah’s involvement meant
impending “massacres” and demanded international intervention on
US State Department also issued a statement condemning Hezbollah’s
involvement in the Syrian Civil War as “unacceptable”
and demanded they immediately withdraw. They made no similar comments
about the large number of foreign jihadists fighting on behalf of the
month’s Geneva Conference is seen as a “make or break” by some
nations for ending the ongoing Syrian Civil War, but there appears to
be little momentum going for it, and a
lot of indications that
the whole thing may never really get off the ground.
Syrian rebels are a big part of the giant question mark hanging over
the event, with the group’s long-split leadership now
in complete tatters,
and even the one group that had already announced its participation
now saying they “haven’t decided,” while reiterating
long-standing demands for most of the Syrian government to
unconditionally resign before the talks even take place.
obviously a non-starter with the Assad government, bulet even their
past indications that they might be willing to negotiate a
“post-Assad” scenario are now unclear, with Foreign Minister
Walid al-Moallem insisting Assad would serve out his present term in
office and might even run for another in 2014.
shift may be a result of the Syrian military’s recent recovery of
territory from the rebels, emboldening the government and perhaps
convincing them that a victory is possible. Of course, both rebels
and government have maintained that victory was not only possible,
but virtually assured for their side, and have seen stalemates drag
the way on for long after either side assumed it would last.
Rebel Fighters Turn on Their Political Leaders
rebel Syrian National Council eventually gave way to a new umbrella
group called the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), and now that too
faces an uncertain future as the group’s leadership disputes grow
and its viability as a political mouthpiece for the rebellion at
large is in increasing doubt.
separate rebel groups issued
a joint statement about
the SNC’s ongoing problems, insisting that the group is losing
touch with fighters on the ground and is increasingly falling under
the control of foreign backers, with the Saudi government and Qatar
seen as the primary culprits in “hijacking” the group.
Saudi-led GCC and Western nations have been pushing for the SNC to
piece together some sort of palatable leadership for the rebellion at
large, but even among the group’s limited constituency they are
struggling to choose leaders, with Moaz al-Khatib, the last
president, resigning because he insisted no one would listen to him.
big issue is that the SNC’s leadership is mostly
drawn from political and
religious opposition figures, while the people doing the heavy
lifting in fighting the rebellion are seeing little representation.
The combat groups are demanding big changes, and more influence over
where the rebellion is going.
problem is compounded by
Western interests, particularly from the US government, urging the
SNC to add more secular voices to their mostly Islamist leadership,
which will dilute the combat groups even more, since Islamist
fighters are dominating the battle on the ground. Losing the faith of
the fighters risks making the group irrelevant.
doubly true with next month’s peace talks in Geneva, as the rebel
fighters aren’t keen on the idea of having a group that doesn’t
represent them negotiating on their behalf. The SNC’s status in
those talks is still somewhat up in the air, as they have
conflicting statements on
whether or not they will participate, and today conceded that they
haven’t really decided yet, let alone gotten to the point of
negotiating who to send or what their platform will be.
the end this could mean the Geneva Conference will amount to Syria
and Russian negotiating with the US on stopping a war in which one of
the primary belligerent factions isn’t at the table, and has no
intention of abiding by any “deal” reached in their absence.