Confusion continues to reign in the Middle East and North Africa. The latest from Egypt in my view is very unwelcome news. However, what about the war that is raging in Syria? Judging from the latest of the defections, the Prime Minister of Syria has defected, one should be able to come to the conclusion that the Assad regime is crumbling. However, Assad is getting assistance from Iran, Russia, China and Hezbollah in order to keep his control over the country going strong (or so it seems). Without accurate reporting because journalists are forbidden in Syria, it is impossible to get a finger on the pulse of this nation at war. The war itself has rapidly become Sunni vs Shia.
What is new in Syria is the involvement of Libyan former rebels who have gone there, not to participate so much as to give aid via training the Syrians who are fighting their government. It is difficult to approve of a regime who has treated people as badly as the Sunni of Syria have been treated since the Assads seized control of the country. Even if we did not like the eventual outcome of this war, I still believe that a people who have been oppressed by their dictator leader have the right to fight for their own freedom. They have the right to self-determination.
Reuters is reporting that former Libyan rebels, especially those who were a part of the successful unit from the mountains who stormed Tripoli and overran the Gaddhafi compound are now in Syria. Their role has been to train the Syrian rebels in methods of urban warfare, as well as helping them to source weapons.
I will let an Irish-Libyan explain the situation:
The Libyans aiding the Syrian rebels include specialists in communications, logistics, humanitarian issues and heavy weapons, he said. They operate training bases, teaching fitness and battlefield tactics.
Najjar said he was surprised to find how poorly armed and disorganized the Syrian rebels were, describing Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority as far more repressed and downtrodden under Assad than Libyans were under Gaddafi.
“I was shocked. There is nothing you are told that can prepare you for what you see. The state of the Sunni Muslims there – their state of mind, their fate – all of those things have been slowly corroded over time by the regime.”
“I nearly cried for them when I saw the weapons. The guns are absolutely useless. We are being sold leftovers from the Iraqi war, leftovers from this and that,” he said. “Luckily these are things that we can do for them: we know how to fix weapons, how to maintain them, find problems and fix them.”
Disorganization is a serious problem. Unlike the Libyan fighters, who enjoyed the protection of a NATO-imposed no-fly zone and were able to set up full-scale training camps, the rebels in Syria are never out of reach of Assad’s air power.
“In Libya, with the no-fly zone, we were able to build up say 1,400 to 1,500 men in one place and have platoons and brigades. Here we have men scattered here, there and everywhere.”
There is more to this article which I think might be pivotal as to the probably outcome of the conflict. At the present time the Syrian rebels remain disorganized. Although Libyan rebels were better organized it must be emphasized that some of that was illusory and we saw the outcome of their own disorganization after the fall of the Gaddhafi regime. However, in Syria there is a lot of disorganization which is holding up the final desired outcome for those involved – there are too many groups with their own self-interest. There is the Syrian Free Army and there are a pile of smaller Islamist outfits. Where Libyans were united against Gaddhafi, such that moderate Muslims who do not believe in Jihad were willing to lay down their lives to get rid of the hated dictator, Syria is divided by their own sectarian rivalries. Yet, Syria is a civil war that is Sunni vs. Shia. The difference in Syria from that of Iraq is that it has been the Shia who have been doing the oppressing of the Sunni majority.
Another interesting point in the article is that there are foreign Muslims who are willing to join in the fight. This is the opposite of the situation in Libya where the people in charge were adamant that there were to be no foreign boots on the ground. In Libya they managed to keep the presence of Al Qaeda Islamists to an absolute minimum, but so long as the Syrian civil war is festering there will be a desire for other Sunni Muslims to join in to defeat Assad. Such an outcome remains undesirable. Again, I will use the words of this Libyan to tell of his own fears:
Najjar said militancy would spread across the region as long as the West does not do more to hasten the downfall of Assad.
“The Western governments are bringing this upon themselves. The longer they leave this door open for this torture and this massacre to carry on, the more young men will drop what they have in this life and search for the afterlife,” Najjar said.
“If the West and other countries do not move fast it will no longer be just guys like me – normal everyday guys that might do anything from have a cigarette to go out on the town – it will be the real extreme guys who will take it to another level.”
The Syrian situation remains a powder keg waiting to blow up in the faces of the Western powers. With such a weak leader as Obama in charge the Middle East has become a real powder keg, and should he be returned for another 4 years then there will be no peace in the world. The fuse in the Middle East is ready to blow. Whilst there is focus on Syria we must not forget that war continues in Yemen, and we cannot ignore the latest developments in Egypt, which make the region extremely dangerous – a situation that has not been as apparent after Anwar Sadat signed the agreement with Menachim Begin.