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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le risque d’une révolte armée

by Pierre Barbancey

Armed Rebellion Threatening in Lybia

Translated Wednesday 2 November 2011, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Bill Scoble

A « Free Syrian Army, based in Turkey, lays claim to the attacks against Bachar Al Assad’s troops. A “Libyan scenario” is not to be excluded.

Anything can happen in Syria. The popular insurrection looks as though it’s turning into an armed conflict in light of the multiplying clashes between soldiers, security forces and deserters, which, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, in fact killed 47 in the ranks of the regime’s troops in 24 hours last Saturday.

Defections have multiplied in army ranks in the last weeks, with many deserters swelling the ranks of the “free Syrian army”, an armed opposition force whose creation was announced in July by Colonel Riad Al Assad, himself a deserter who took refuge in Turkey and has Turkey’s support.

Peaceful mobilization supplanted?

That armed wing might supplant peaceful mobilization without the popular committees, which are the real driving force of the revolt, having opted for it. Especially as the so-called “free Syrian army” has so far no official link with the National Syrian Council (NSC) [1] on which almost all opposition forces are represented, as was confirmed to l’Humanité by its president Burhan Ghalioun.

But the increase in the incidence of attacks on the Syrian army might be deliberately targeted by groups supported by foreign countries, with a view to launching a Libyan-style scenario. Some of the demonstrators last Friday were calling for the setting up of a no-fly zone, exactly as former Republican presidential candidate John McCain had done a few days before, saying that this would make it possible to set up enclaves, or a sort of “Syrian Benghazis” within Syria, from which important military operations could be launched against the Damascus regime.

Things have not yet reached that point. Despite the present situation, Bachar Al Assad, the Syrian president, looks confident. He gave an interview to the British daily The Sunday Telegraph, in which he insisted that his country is “completely different from Egypt, Tunisia , or Yemen,”, and admits that Syrian security forces made “many mistakes” at the beginning of the protest but insisted they are now targeting only “terrorists”. The Syrian head of State pointed out that Western countries would be “stoking up the rebellion” but objected that Syria was “now a central piece in the region. It is positioned on the fault line, and if you play with it, you will trigger a temblor.” “Do you want another Afghanistan,” he then asked, or dozens of them? Should any problem arise in Syria, it is sure to set the whole region ablaze. If the plan is to divide Syria, that will divide the whole region."

The Arab League is moving to the frontline

The fact right now is that the Arab League is moving to the frontline. It is doubtless no mere coincidence that Qatar is now playing a key part, having been on the forefront in the war on Libya and heading the new military coalition in that country. Last Wednesday a delegation led by Qatar Prime Minister sheikh Hamad Ben Jassem Al Thani asked President Assad to commit himself to a precise reform agenda, to accept a meeting between official representatives and the Syrian opposition abroad, and to put a stop to violence. Quoting well-informed forces, the influent Kuwait daily Al-Qabas stated that the Arab League’s delegation warned Damascus that the failure of its mediation “would lead to an internationalization of the crisis”, and notably to “a foreign intervention and an economic embargo”.

Damascus therefore looks isolated. Yet, contrary to what happened in Libya, no major political defection has been registered. And the National Syrian Council has been officially recognized only by post-Gaddafi Libya. Which really suggests that the attitude of European countries and the US is dictated by geo-strategic rather than humanitarian views. Bassad Al Assad is right on this point: Syria is not Libya or Egypt. Yet its main allies are fretting. China’s emissary to the Middle East, Wu Sike, informed Syrian leaders that they must “respect and meet the Syrian people’s legitimate aspirations and claims”. And President Assad repeated that he “counted on Russia’s support”.

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