The vote on the bombing today is proper Brasseye stuff isn’t it.
imagine taking lessons in morality from a former head of the FBI
this weekend i read somewhere (possibly just a facebook comment) that the rebels started out as pro-democracy fighters but then assad released a load of extremists, hoping to radicalise them, and of course now there’s loads of different groups, some more radical than others
anyone know if there’s any evidence of that being true?
unsurprisingly googling is bringing up a range of opinions
Some of the rebels started out as pro-democracy fighters, but like most of the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings, the numbers, money and weapons were dominated by theocrats, was my understanding.
I’ve not seen anything about Assad deliberately freeing people who were probably opposed to his rule, tbh.
by the end of 2011, al baghdadi had already dispatched his number 2 to syria with instructions to infiltrate vulnerable opposition groups and radicalize wherever possible, while saudi, qatar and turkey had already started funneling men, guns and cash to then-nascent islamist factions. the intention was always to create an unbearable situation that would result in a full-on civil war.
the story goes that to make up for initial shortfalls in manpower, these outside forces told their proxies on the ground to start demanding the release of “political prisoners”. they gave lists of names to the security services. the saa, at the time untested and ill-disciplined, withdrew from much of the country and (the story goes) were given permission by the regime to free the prisoners as they went as a gesture of appeasement. maybe assad figured he could deal with them once his forces regrouped, idk. then (the story goes) the extremist groups absorbed the jihadists and killed the secular/nationalist/left-wing dissidents once they were freed. it’s a pretty grand conspiracy theory and it allows all the right people to shift the blame for what’s happened since 2011 onto the regime.
the US DoD compiled a report in 2012 that accurately predicted that if america’s policy remained confused and the CIA and the above countries kept fuelling the conflict, syria would see the emergence of a radical islamist proto-state spanning the border with iraq by at least 2014 (their diplomats then had to run around KSA, qatar and turkey apologizing to their governments for telling the truth) and if this happened assad was all but guaranteed to request formal intervention from russia and/or iran.
nobody i’ve read can really confirm who actually freed the prisoners, if it did happen. in a revolution i guess your first port of call is the prisons 'cos that’s where you’re guaranteed to find people fanatical/desperate enough to actually fight, especially in a dictatorship. i’m not sure, given the above, how much difference a few prisoners would have made to what was already a catastrophe within six months of the initial protests.
Some of the rebels started out as pro-democracy fighters
there were many rebel groups in the country that conducted experiments very similar to rojava. kinda like civil war spain, they set up their own little democratic communes and everything. they were more of a threat to the regime at the beginning than the extremist factions because they actually offered syrians a peaceful and self-determining future anybody would find attractive. they were ploughed into the ground by both the saa and the islamist militants, and by 2014 or so they were on the verge of total defeat (raqqa is a good microcosm of what happened in the wider situation in this regard). idk how strong the moderate opposition still is tbh - much of the democratic movement has been killed, co-opted or driven into exile, and it’s the latter which seem to have the ear of western governments, think tankers and media pundits despite not having been in syria since the early stages of the war. it’s telling that the head of the SNC is taking refuge in turkey and in every article you read about battles between the regime and the rebel groups (a weird term to use when so many of them are made up of foreign fighters and dipshit outcasts from the west who’d never heard of syria before 2011), they bury the name and affiliation of the rebel org way down in paragraph 8 or something, and 9.9/10 it’s al nusra or jaysh al-islam or whatever.
there are lots of otherwise sound thinkers who have no problem calling out assad’s war crimes but get very coy when the ideology and actions of the opposition groups is questioned. suddenly it’s “what even is terrorism in the context of war, maaan?”, and it has the effect of making it seem as if all syrians were just far-right salafists the entire time and the whole democratic uprising thing was a bit of banter.
The most informative thing I’ve read about Syria is “The Crossing” by Samar Yazbek. She is an Alawite secular journalist who lived with members of the Sunni opposition for I think at least 3 extended periods, and she charts what happened to them over that early period.
Much as in the Spanish Civil War the communists came to dominate the Republican side because they were the only force with a major external sponsor, so in Syria the Islamists became more and more dominant in Syria because they had weapons coming in.
As for intervention, the only thing I’m convinced would have helped would have been to ground the Syrian air force. At least it would have stopped the barrel bombing of civilians, and maybe Assad would have been forced to negotiate without that advantage. Once Russia got involved though, that option was obviously off the table.
What I’ve read is the prisoners released were leaders rather than foot soldiers, and were released in the hope that an opposition containing Islamists was less likely to attract international (western) support.
The book I mentioned above contains interviews with Islamist (non-Isis) commanders who confirm that they were released from prison in summer 2011.
Fair, I haven’t read that book but I would guess the writer knows more than I do!
One thing I forgot to mention is that from what I’ve read of the western and specifically American reaction to the initial uprising, thoughts in the early stages from CIA chiefs and State Dept people were that the US should take extreme care not to antagonize Saudi Arabia, Israel or Turkey. Inevitably, this meant not supporting any overtly left wing or secular Syrian opposition, and when it came time to pipeline guns and fighters from Libya and elsewhere to the opposition forces, the CIA allowed Saudi and Turkey more or less free reign to determine who got what. It was obvious which groups the Saudis and the Turks would want to empower and which they’d want to eradicate.
The US kept supplying the moderate forces but only with enough equipment to keep them barely in the game, while the radical far-right forces Turkey and Saudi favoured were armed to the teeth in very little time.
Of course, the US shifted to supporting the SDF when ISIS emerged but the way they’ve fucked them off completely this year to keep Turkey sweet would tend to confirm they only ever saw the Kurds - and by extension, the other democratic opposition groups - as entirely disposable in pursuit of greater regional influence for themselves, SKA, Israel and Turkey.
Tl;DR: Syria was such a beautiful country, full of amazingly brave people who only wanted freedom and dignity, and it’s both terrifying and an international disgrace that we’ve been complicit in its near-total destruction, and have helped foster such a volatile situation that WW3 is an actual possibility in the next few years (if it’s not already underway to some degree).
This one’s clearly the best…
Good summary - think Qatar was also a major sponsor of Islamist groups, possibly to an even greater extent than Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Edit: just checked and apparently Qatar supported both moderate and extremist groups.
Isn’t that the Saudi narrative
Not sure - think they both supported similar groups for a long time. Weren’t the Saudis more annoyed with Qatar for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in other Gulf countries?
Alexa show me everything wrong with American liberalism…
Didn’t think the situation in Syria could get any worse, but it appears John Bolton has other ideas…
Randa Slim, who directs the back-channel Track II diplomacy programme at MEI said: “It is one thing for the Saudis to pay for other ‘Islamic forces’ to do the job, and a totally different thing to send their men to a conflict theatre where they are bound to enter into direct confrontation with an entrenched Iranian-Hezbollah force.
The other factor to consider is: what is Turkey’s response to this proposal? I do not see Ankara welcoming the positions of Egyptian and/or Emirati forces on its border,” Slim said.
love how even the guardian just cannot bring itself to connect the dots between Saudi and turkey and their jihadist proxies on the ground, even as turkey essentially incorporates ISIS/al Qaeda groups into their army and turns them loose to rape and murder in afrin.
closest they come is letting the little wink-wink “Islamic forces” comment from slim slip through. I mean, they’re death squads tasked with ethnically cleansing Syria. let’s be real here.
Yeah, Turkey seems to be able to get away with anything. Also how would the Kurds feel about Saudi ‘support’?
The replies on this are outstanding, though.