Turkish Border Is Crucial Link in Syrian Conflict

ANTAKYA, Turkey — The onetime ragtag militias of the Syrian opposition are developing into a more effective fighting force with the help of an increasingly sophisticated network of activists here in southern Turkey that is smuggling crucial supplies across the border, including weapons, communications gear, field hospitals and even salaries for soldiers who defect.

The network reflects an effort to forge an opposition movement linking military, governmental and humanitarian organizations, that together can not only defeat the vastly superior military of President Bashar al-Assad, but also replace his government.

While it is far too early to speak of a state within a state, the rising sophistication of the effort underscores the evolving nature of the conflict and how control over the north and northwestern areas of the country is slowly slipping away from the government.

The network is emerging at a time of heightened tensions with Turkey and amid reports of multiple defections of high-ranking officers from the Syrian Army, many of whom are now helping the opposition. Turkey will sit down on Tuesday with its NATO allies to discuss a response to the downing of one of its warplanes by Syrian gunners, while on Monday Turkey reported that a general and two colonels had defected from Syria on Sunday, bringing the total to more than a dozen.

The undertaking by the opposition here constitutes more than just ferrying much-needed supplies. The larger, more elusive goal is to create cohesion and cooperation between the scattered militias that constitute the Free Syrian Army, as well as whatever local civilian rule has emerged.

There are now 10 military councils inside Syria, activists said, incorporating virtually every important town or rural area in revolt, with the notable exception of Homs, where factional differences continue to stymie unity. Activists working with the Syrian National Council, the main Syrian exile group, issue monthly pay packets, starting at $200 per soldier, with more for officers as well as a stipend for the families of those killed.

The money, said the activists, helps ensure the discipline among the military councils needed to engineer more choreographed attacks on the Assad military, rather than random acts of sabotage. “Military operations need to become more strategic,” said Hasan Kasem, 31, an activist who fled Aleppo, Syria, in February when he was summoned for military service.

Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, the Norwegian head of the United Nations observers in Syria, told the Security Council last week that the resistance was increasingly effective, a diplomat who was present said.

The general attributed that to more experience, rather than better weapons or increased coordination, but opposition activists disagreed. Mr. Kasem described how military leaders have divided Aleppo and areas west toward the Turkish border into five sectors under an overall military council called the Northern Free Brigades. “The group has changed from a voluntary military group into an actual body, a much more organized military structure,” Mr. Kasem said. “They either had to become an organized army, or become a gang.”

The opposition effort now also involves shipping weapons that can challenge tanks. “It is not a decisive strategy yet, it is just an attempt to tinker with the military balance,” said one member of the Syrian National Council, speaking on the condition of anonymity because weapons smuggling is a secretive issue.

Western governments have been reluctant to provide the opposition with large quantities of sophisticated weapons for fear they will fall into the wrong hands. Apparently aware of that concern, opposition officials say the recipients are carefully evaluated. “We need to vet people,” said one official, who was not authorized to speak publicly. “You don’t want to provide equipment to people you don’t know.”

In the Aleppo countryside, each sector sends a representative to an operations room run by the military council, Mr. Kasem said. But activists admit to friction between the military councils and traditional civilian leaders from prominent families who stepped in when the Syrian government evaporated, and who resent being overshadowed.

A generation gap aggravates the problem. The military leaders tend to be young defectors. The idea is to get the military councils to concentrate on tactical issues while the civilian governing structure, the revolutionary councils, distributes aid and keeps the peaceful protest movement alive.

Essential to that task are people like Rami, a young Syrian activist with a ponytail, who would give only his first name. Until early last year, he was a successful financial executive in a Damascus media company. Now, he lives in a stark two-bedroom apartment here, where his effort to sustain the uprising includes packing small duffel bags with video cameras, satellite telephones and electronic devices that convert television dishes into transmitters.

“When you are close like this, you feel that the spirit of the revolution is still with you, you are still part of it,” said Rami, his apartment stacked with floral print foam mattresses used by a steady stream of army defectors and activists. “In Istanbul or anywhere else, you are nothing, you are a person concerned with something happening in another place.”

Some of the humanitarian efforts appear haphazard. In one house near the border, a group of men, their doormat a small gray carpet with the face of President Assad, run something like a mail-order business, handling a wide array of requests from inside Syria: medical supplies, freshly baked bread and fertilizer to construct crude explosives.

With countless wounded rebels dying on the slow trek into Turkey for treatment, there is an ambitious effort to streamline and improve medical facilities. “The injuries are getting worse and worse,” said Dr. Monzer Yazji, 48, a Syrian-American specialist in internal medicine from Texas.

Dr. Yazji helped found the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations last January to channel financing from Syrian doctors around the world. From an apartment in the nearby border town of Reyhanli, Turkey, it sponsors an array of projects, including an effort to persuade individual doctors abroad to sponsor a Syrian doctor, donating medicine and a basic salary.

The organization brought 70 activists from Syria and taught them how to transport badly injured patients. It began dispatching field hospitals across the border — about $20,000 in medical equipment in 20 boxes, enough to fill a small pickup truck — that allow doctors to perform rudimentary surgery. There are more permanent projects, like converting a two-story villa in a Syrian border town under rebel control into a 30-bed hospital.

Syrian doctors living here acknowledged some tensions with the Turkish government over the time required for relief supplies to clear customs, as well as the government’s refusal to relax a ban on licensing foreign doctors. Numerous Syrian doctors have opened their own homes to patients with serious wounds. Talal Abdullah, the former humanitarian coordinator in the area for the Syrian National Council, said that at one point he crammed 12 patients into his apartment.

There has also been discord among the Syrians, with Mr. Abdullah, a Christian dentist from Hama, quitting his council post because, he said, the Muslim Brotherhood pushed nonmembers aside. “Their power is that all the money and all the humanitarian aid is in their hands, but we don’t know where it is coming from,” he said.

The Syrian government’s unwavering line is that the insurgency is a foreign operation intended to fragment Syria. American officials and Arab intelligence officers said a small unit of the Central Intelligence Agency was operating here, vetting who gets better arms. But it has not gone inside, the sources said.

At least two activists admitted to knowing about contacts with American advisers over military tactics, but said nothing further. General Mood told the Security Council that his interpreters were able to identify a few foreigners from their accents, but no significant presence, the Council diplomat said.

Most activists stressed that Syrians were simply fighting for a better life.

“Syria will be divided over our dead bodies,” said Manhal Bareesh, 32, the son of a prominent Baath Party renegade in Idlib Province. “Every time someone dies, I feel it is a very high price.”

NY Times

  • master09

    This is why Turkey will not get involved directly they will get the job done using the people of Syria… and outrite civil war while they sit and watch, so Iran, Russia can only do the same… poor people that is all I can say, the children will suffer the most with schools closed..more uneducated people in the ME, like we need more…. 

    • hezzies are terrorists

       @master09:disqus So what worries you is the “schools closed” and “more uneducated” people? Who cares about those children who would attend those schools if they are tortured to death or butchered in front of their parents, as long they keep the schools open yeh?
      My god no wonder society is retarded!!

      @73Corty77 STFU!!

      • master09

        Yes David society is retarded, but you know what makes it even more, is when someone who can not read between the lines.. You see you think I want  war and killing and I support one group over another or one religion or political party over another.No David I do not, I have seen first hand what conflict can do to the young. Instead of the children playing, reading, singing, learning the ABC they are running with the crazy old who carry guns knives and cut of peoples heads while you hear them cry out Alah Akbar.or kill, kill, kill.  
         
        I watched a clip with three boys no more than 9 years old standing watching while men held a man down and cut his head off, while the young boys chanted and pumped their fist in the air.. That is the education we need for the young.YES WHAT DO YOU THINK DAVID…..AH First if the schools where open that would mean there is no war or killing, that is the point I am trying to put across, not HOW YOU SAY IT,………. Who cares about those children who would attend those schools if they are tortured to death or butchered in front of their parents, as long they keep the schools open yeh?

        The kids are not butchered at school they are in their own home on the streets, I am talking about STOPPING THE WAR SO THE NOT JUST THE YOUNG BUT ALL CAN LIVE IN PEACE AND ATTEND WORK AND SCHOOL AND TO BE FREE TO JUST LIVE…….NO ONE WINS IN A WAR……DO YOU AT LEAST AGREE WITH THAT…..
        So this is not about keeping the schools open, it is about NO WAR, NO WAR LOUD AND CLEAR…

         

        • hezzies are terrorists

           I’m presume u have a link to this “clip” you mention.
          Secondly i never said you want war, so stop putting words into my mouth mate! I pointed out that you mention schools being open as something deserving attention by what you said. As for calling me more retarded, LMFAO.. whatever!

        • hezzies are terrorists

           One more thing, does it make a difference when a christian kills someone but doesn’t scream out Lord Jesus before dropping 2 tonne bombs on weddings? Or is it only Muslims that you notice?

        • 5thDrawer

          We can see clips of Dearborn Michigan too … there are lots of examples for David to see,  where children are used and thus abused when they should be in a classroom trying to lean how to live.
          As for a bomb on a wedding … how would that be different than the wedding shot up in Gaza by Hamas because it played music? Maybe you think ‘up close and personal’ is better?
          10-yr-olds in Tripoli Lebanon running around dressed to kill instead of being in school is not a way to any future of sanity either. (Check the news, David. He was happy to be interviewed.)
          Some might add that bad education in a school can blind the youth. But one thing is for sure. When the education is ‘on the street’ being controlled by older gangsters, you have lost society.

        • 73Corty77

          Must admit master09 that was nicely said. Totally agree. No body wins in war. Only innocent people suffering and having to deal with the with aftermath. 

      • master09

        Firstly we are not mates, two you again miss the point totaly, I am not talking about an open war between two sides soldiers do not take the young kids along and show them how to drop a TWO TONE BOMB ON A WEDDING,HOW MANY TIMES HAS THIS HAPPEN, PLEASE PROVIDE WITH LINKS LOL,,,,, this for sure must happen every day like the burning of churches with people in them rite… I am talking about Syria and what happens outside of WAR with children running around with adults learning how to kill and watching it been done…NICE FUTURE FOR THE WORLD,,,,RITE. IN A WAR WITH ARMY TANK OR A PLANE OR A ROCKET SITE, where international army does NOT bring KIDS to show them how to do it….they leave them at home….yes.

        .You are talking one thing and I am another…Don,t bring in this hate crap that everyone hides behind, BLAME THE JEWS AND THE YANKS CRAP.THEY ARE THE PROBLEM IN THE ME
        The problem in the ME are the ARABS who hate each OTHER ..THEY kill our children and women… Have you seen what Arabs do to EACH OTHER, WE ARE SO GOOD AT POINTING FINGERS.. 
        LET ME give you facts and how the Arab leaders kill more of their people than the bombs on weddings your talking about during a WAR..
        The infamous black september JORDAN thousands of Palestinians massacred. Hafaz Assad leveled HAMA in 1982. Saddam Hussain 1980 genocide of tens of thousands. Sudanese in Darfur tens of thousands… I can go on. ARABS KILLING ARABS but the jews and usa kill ten and the world JUMPS up….or is that not the same…….funny world we live in ah……easy to point fingers….

          I am not going to waste time giving you links and sites , you want to believe or not that is your issue..I watched this clip I am talking about with the kids on AL jezzera tv……All relgions have done VERY BAD THINGS, but I am not talking about Palestine or nigeria or every event in history…AGAIN I am saying the kids  in the ME are learning and growing up with the WRONG people and the wrong things..in their face…… full stop end of story read
         5th drawer below puts it well…….

  • master09

    This is why Turkey will not get involved directly they will get the job done using the people of Syria… and outrite civil war while they sit and watch, so Iran, Russia can only do the same… poor people that is all I can say, the children will suffer the most with schools closed..more uneducated people in the ME, like we need more…. 

    •  @master09:disqus So what worries you is the “schools closed” and “more uneducated” people? Who cares about those children who would attend those schools if they are tortured to death or butchered in front of their parents, as long they keep the schools open yeh?
      My god no wonder society is retarded!!

      @73Corty77 STFU!!

      • master09

        Yes David society is retarded, but you know what makes it even more, is when someone who can not read between the lines.. You see you think I want  war and killing and I support one group over another or one religion or political party over another.No David I do not, I have seen first hand what conflict can do to the young. Instead of the children playing, reading, singing, learning the ABC they are running with the crazy old who carry guns knives and cut of peoples heads while you hear them cry out Alah Akbar.or kill, kill, kill.  
         
        I watched a clip with three boys no more than 9 years old standing watching while men held a man down and cut his head off, while the young boys chanted and pumped their fist in the air.. That is the education we need for the young.YES WHAT DO YOU THINK DAVID…..AH First if the schools where open that would mean there is no war or killing, that is the point I am trying to put across, not HOW YOU SAY IT,………. Who cares about those children who would attend those schools if they are tortured to death or butchered in front of their parents, as long they keep the schools open yeh?

        The kids are not butchered at school they are in their own home on the streets, I am talking about STOPPING THE WAR SO THE NOT JUST THE YOUNG BUT ALL CAN LIVE IN PEACE AND ATTEND WORK AND SCHOOL AND TO BE FREE TO JUST LIVE…….NO ONE WINS IN A WAR……DO YOU AT LEAST AGREE WITH THAT…..
        So this is not about keeping the schools open, it is about NO WAR, NO WAR LOUD AND CLEAR…

         

        •  I’m presume u have a link to this “clip” you mention.
          Secondly i never said you want war, so stop putting words into my mouth mate! I pointed out that you mention schools being open as something deserving attention by what you said. As for calling me more retarded, LMFAO.. whatever!

        •  One more thing, does it make a difference when a christian kills someone but doesn’t scream out Lord Jesus before dropping 2 tonne bombs on weddings? Or is it only Muslims that you notice?

        • 5thDrawer

          We can see clips of Dearborn Michigan too … there are lots of examples for David to see,  where children are used and thus abused when they should be in a classroom trying to lean how to live.
          As for a bomb on a wedding … how would that be different than the wedding shot up in Gaza by Hamas because it played music? Maybe you think ‘up close and personal’ is better?
          10-yr-olds in Tripoli Lebanon running around dressed to kill instead of being in school is not a way to any future of sanity either. (Check the news, David. He was happy to be interviewed.)
          Some might add that bad education in a school can blind the youth. But one thing is for sure. When the education is ‘on the street’ being controlled by older gangsters, you have lost society.

        • 73Corty77

          Must admit master09 that was nicely said. Totally agree. No body wins in war. Only innocent people suffering and having to deal with the with aftermath. 

      • master09

        Firstly we are not mates, two you again miss the point totaly, I am not talking about an open war between two sides soldiers do not take the young kids along and show them how to drop a TWO TONE BOMB ON A WEDDING, this for sure must happen every day like the burning of churches with people in them rite… I am talking about Syria and what happens outside of WAR with children running around with adults learning how to kill and watching it been done… NOT AN ARMY TANK OR A PLANE OR A ROCKET SITE, where international army does NOT bring KIDS to show them how to do it….they leave them at home….yes.

        .You are talking one thing and I am another…Don,t bring in this hate crap that everyone hides behind, BLAME THE JEWS AND THE YANKS CRAP.THEY ARE THE PROBLEM IN THE ME
        The problem in the ME are the ARABS who hate each OTHER ..THEY kill our children and women… Have you seen what Arabs do to EACH OTHER, WE ARE SO GOOD AT POINTING FINGERS.. 

          I am not going to waste time giving you links and sites , you want to believe or not that is your issue..I watched this on AL jezzera tv……All relgions have done VERY BAD THINGS, but I am not talking about Palestine or nigeria or every event in history…AGAIN I am saying the kids  in the ME are learning and growing up with the WRONG people and the wrong things..in their face…… full stop end of story read
         5th drawer below puts it well……. 

  • wargame1

    The Free Syrian Army should manage some stinger Missile so they can shoot down those attack helicopters. On the ground the IED are doing great job. This is a struggle the Syrian people will do to clean the mess of these bashar Dog tribe for the last 42 years. end of the last communist regime in the middle East. The remaining communist regime of Iran will be taken down too but I think first it is necessary to take down the communist ghetto of Russia. 

    • 73Corty77

      Sorry Wargame But I cant stop laughing at your comments Not just this one but all of them. You need to take a chill pill champ. to much anger is no good for your health

      • 73corty77
        sorry sorty i cant see any humor in this syrian strugglers cry for help.May be a clown like you could explain the humor to us idiots missing the point of his joke.

        • 73Corty77

          My comment was in no way laughing at the struggles the poor Syrian people are going through. It was merely at the negativity wargame has towards the Syrian government. 
          maybe a clown like should learn how to read properly before responding in this manner.
          Your comment proves you are an idiot because you obviously missed the point.

    • Hannibal

       Russia is no longer communist. But let me ask you this: For how long you believe your honey moon with the USA will last? As soon as the rebels take over and turn Syria into another “Brotherhood” state it is inconceivable to me that the new governments won’t support the Palestinian struggle, at which time the United States will interfere. It is a chess game and the pieces play to the songs of big countries. Shame on all of those who think sect and not nation…

      • 5thDrawer

        True enough Hannibal. Politics – the big chess game. Hard enough after 200 years holding the ‘united states’ together sometimes … but under the word ‘American’ they work to hang on to what benefits them all.
        Equally … most of the time.

        • Hannibal

           At the expense of others? That’s not Christian! 😛 lol

        • 5thDrawer

          Ya Hannibal !!  (below …) 
          Of course not. It’s ‘Business’. :-)))))

  • wargame1

    The Free Syrian Army should manage some stinger Missile so they can shoot down those attack helicopters. On the ground the IED are doing great job. This is a struggle the Syrian people will do to clean the mess of these bashar Dog tribe for the last 42 years. end of the last communist regime in the middle East. The remaining communist regime of Iran will be taken down too but I think first it is necessary to take down the communist ghetto of Russia. 

    • 73Corty77

      Sorry Wargame But I cant stop laughing at your comments Not just this one but all of them. You need to take a chill pill champ. to much anger is no good for your health

      • 73corty77
        sorry sorty i cant see any humor in this syrian strugglers cry for help.May be a clown like you could explain the humor to us idiots missing the point of his joke.

        • 73Corty77

          My comment was in no way laughing at the struggles the poor Syrian people are going through. It was merely at the negativity wargame has towards the Syrian government. 
          maybe a clown like should learn how to read properly before responding in this manner.
          Your comment proves you are an idiot because you obviously missed the point.

    •  Russia is no longer communist. But let me ask you this: For how long you believe your honey moon with the USA will last? As soon as the rebels take over and turn Syria into another “Brotherhood” state it is inconceivable to me that the new governments won’t support the Palestinian struggle, at which time the United States will interfere. It is a chess game and the pieces play to the songs of big countries. Shame on all of those who think sect and not nation…

      • 5thDrawer

        True enough Hannibal. Politics – the big chess game. Hard enough after 200 years holding the ‘united states’ together sometimes … but under the word ‘American’ they work to hang on to what benefits them all.
        Equally … most of the time.

        •  At the expense of others? That’s not Christian! 😛 lol

        • 5thDrawer

          Ya Hannibal !!  (below …) 
          Of course not. It’s ‘Business’. :-)))))