Obama and the Syrian ‘moderates’

Obama and the Syrian ‘moderates’
Robert Fisk, The Independent, Friday, 27 June 2014

Well, God bless Barack Obama – he’s found some “moderate” rebels in Syria. Enough to supply them with weapons and training worth $500m. Congress wants to arm these brave freedom fighters, you see…

Who are the “moderate” rebels whom Obama wants to train and arm? He doesn’t name them – and he can’t, because the original “moderates” whom America swore to arm (with the help of the CIA, the Brits, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey) were the so-called “Free Syrian Army”, mostly composed of deserters from Assad’s government forces. But the FSA – briefly beloved of John McCain until he discovered a pro-al-Qa’ida fighter sharing a photo-op with him in northern Syria – has decomposed….
They weren’t given enough weapons, we are told. Now they’ll get more. And no doubt sell them – as they did the last lot. For it is a sad fact of war that whenever a gun crosses a border, it represents not loyalty but cash. Give an FSA man – if you can find one – an anti-aircraft missile and it will be sold to the highest bidder.


McCain, supporter of Islamists in Egypt, Islamists in Syria, Islamists in Libya
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”

What’s left of the FSA has been fighting the Islamist Isis-Isil forces. So have the Kurdish militias in northern Syria. So have a few village militias. And the Syrians have a suspicion that this is Obama’s half-baked plan: to arm the anti-Islamist Syrian rebels to fight the pro-al-Qa’ida rebels and thus – indirectly – keep both the Assad and Maliki regimes in power.
The problem is that Obama must do this without revealing that Assad’s Syrian army – using Russian jets – is struggling against exactly the same enemy as Maliki’s Iraqi army, also soon to be augmented with Russian jets.


Why are fighters leaving the Free Syrian Army?
Washington Post, 12-5-2014

Why do some fighters who join insurgencies decide to quit? We began a survey in August 2013 in Syria to shed light on who leaves insurgencies and why.
We have conducted interviews with over 250 rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), civilians in FSA-controlled territory, as well as refugees in FSA-backed camps in Turkey. In April, we completed interviews with 50 former FSA rebels who have abandoned the conflict and moved to Turkey. What were the most common reasons for leaving? They were generally lost hope in the possibility of victory and disarray within the FSA…
According to Abo Hasan, a commander of the al-Abrar group in Hama, who has been fighting with the FSA since 2011, “fighters start losing hope in the war and are leaving their brigades in large numbers.”


The most frequent responses the former rebels selected for leaving the conflict included:
1) Declining Prospects for Victory
2) Lack of Discipline and Organization
3) Social and Family Pressure to Leave. Ex-fighters no longer consider fighting with the FSA synonymous with protecting their families and supporting their communities and have transitioned back into civilian life.

What about those who are disillusioned with the FSA, but still have high morale and a strong drive to continue the fight? One option for these fighters is to shop for other groups to join. Islamist brigades are almost always the strongest alternatives, promising disaffected FSA fighters better treatment, organization and unit cohesion to entice them to leave the FSA.
One rebel fighter we interviewed (“Abo Farouk”) is currently fighting for the FSA’s Abrar brigade as well as the Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham, but is considering whether to leave both groups and fight instead with al-Nusra Front, which the United States has designated as a terrorist organization. His stated reasons for switching are almost entirely organizational rather than ideological…


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