At long last anti-aircraft weapons are getting through to the rebels. The Free Syrian Army fighters have recently made significant successes on the ground and managed to shoot down five fighter jets including a military helicopter in the space of two days. In less than 24 hours, rebels used surface-to-air missiles to strike down two aircraft in northern Syria, marking a turning point in their war with forces of President Bashar al-Assad. If this average continues the regime will be weakened and its military capabilities degraded to such an extent that it will not withstand the rebels’ onslaught in the coming weeks.
After many months of dithering and procrastinating, the Obama Administration is now considering the arming of rebels. This is a positive change that will eventually save the Syrian people from an odious brutal regime. Nobody in Syria wants a Libyan style invasion. The Free Syrian Army can do the job if given the tools to do so. The tools are anti-aircraft and anti tank weapons. Some weapons are getting through but not in sufficient quantities to make a huge difference in military terms.
The change in the stance of the Obama Administration has been explained in a report in the New York Times Thursday (November 29th)
“The administration has figured out that if they don’t start doing something, the war will be over and they won’t have any influence over the combat forces on the ground,” said Jeffrey White, a former Defense Intelligence Agency intelligence officer and specialist on the Syria military. “They may have some influence with various political groups and factions, but they won’t have influence with the fighters, and the fighters will control the territory”.
The other significant development is the planned NATO’s deployment of Patriot missiles along the Turkish-Syrian border which is another step in the right direction. On Wednesday night, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, told an audience at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard that “we’d be very much in favor of” the Turkish request for Patriot missiles “in terms of protecting the security of our ally.” The Patriot PAC-3 is the most modern air defense system in the American and NATO arsenals.
Parallel to the above developments, an Iranian report obtained by a Western diplomatic source stated that Iran is now very worried that its client Bashar al Assad regime’s is facing collapse. Alarabiya reported 29th November that the secret Iranian report revealed that Tehran was disappointed by the failure of the regime to implement Iranian advice and Iranian funds were corruptly transferred to personal accounts of senior Syrian officers. The report says Iran believes the Syrian regime’s collapse is inevitable without the Islamic republic’s support. In conclusion, the report said Iran decided not to increase its support for Syria due to the deteriorating economic situation in the Islamic republic and Assad regime’s unlikely survival in the long term.
On the political front Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN/Arab League envoy to Syria has been quiet but is believed to be busy cooking up some plan which many Middle East observers believe that it will provide an escape route for the regime from the inevitable end. Brahimi was accused of trying to extend the life span of a dying regime. Writing in the Pan Arab Asharq Al Awsat Newspaper recently the well known Saudi columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed said: “We don’t know what plot the Arab League and UN envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is hatching in order to stop the ongoing war in Syria. He is the only person who represents the last hope for an end to the slaughter”. Al Rashed thinks that Mr. Brahimi is promoting a scheme that keeps Bashar al Assad in power until 2014 as rumour has it. In my view the Brahimi’s plan has little chance of success as the rebels will reject it out of hand.
We all remember what happened to the much talked about Kofi Annan’s plan some eight months ago. On 27 March 2012 the Syrian regime declared its acceptance of the Kofi Annan UN sponsored plan. The main requirement of the plan was the pulling back of the Syrian troops from Syrian cities by April 10th and all fighting to stop within 48 hours after that. I wrote in the Huffington Post on April 10th 2012 that there was no chance of that. The Syrian troops continued shelling civilian residential areas in Homs and other areas.
The Kofi Annan’s plan floundered. Lakhdar Brahimi’s yet to be announced plan is likely to also end in failure.
In order for the butchery of the Syrian people to stop, the least that can be done now is for the US to expedite the delivery of the right weapons to the FSA and to stop dithering and wasting time. The longer the fighting continues the more the loss of life will rise. Latest estimates indicate that between 35 and 40 thousand Syrians have been killed and most of them were massacred by the regime.
Should the subject come before the Security Council, China is likely to abstain but Russia will not play ball. Russia is still refusing to condemn the war crimes committed by the Syrian regime. The Security Council has been so far impotent to act to stop the massacres perpetrated by Bashar Al Assad’s thugs against the pro-democracy protesters. Middle East watchers are warning of civil war and chaos.
When in October 2011 Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution that would have condemned the Assad regime some 3200 people had been killed. The number is now well over 35000 and rising daily. Does the figure have to climb to 50 or 60 thousands before Russia and China decide to do the right thing? So far they don’t seem to be bothered by the rising numbers of the dead and wounded. Stopping the Syrian killing spree is not a priority for Russia and China.
In January 2012 Navi Pillay the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recommended that the council refers the Syrian regime to the International Criminal Court, the permanent war crimes tribunal, for investigation of possible crimes against humanity.
Over the past month, rebel forces in Syria have enjoyed tactical successes which analysts say demonstrate their growing ability to challenge the government’s military dominance.
The rebels have displayed military strength and organisation in capturing several major military bases, seizing weaponry, disrupting supply lines, and forcing the military to withdraw. To maintain the momentum the West under the leadership of the USA must proceed swiftly to supply the weapons needed. The belief that the USA and its allies can do more to support Syrian rebels has strengthened in recent days after Syrian opposition groups agreed to form a united front to topple the Assad regime.
By : Nehad Ismail
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