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Syrian Uprising Status!

Interesting Article: "Syrian forces overrun opposition in rebel stronghold of Homs" by Liz Sly / Beirut published Thursday, March 1st, 2012

An interesting article mentioned that Syrian government forces overran an opposition stronghold in the central city of Homs on Thursday, raising concerns about the safety of the civilians still trapped there and exposing the limitations of the fledgling armed resistance movement that has sprung up to confront the Syrian regime in recent months. With all communications to Bab Amr severed, including satellite connections, it was difficult to ascertain exactly what was happening. Would you like to know more?

The speed with which Syrian forces seized control of the neighborhood — less than 36 hours — after a 27-day siege during which the area was subjected to almost-uninterrupted artillery bombardment, focused attention on the increasingly controversial question of whether outside powers should arm the Syrian opposition. Col. Malik al-Kurdi, a Free Syrian Army spokesman reached by telephone in Turkey, appealed for weapons, saying that only the force of arms could bring down the Assad regime and protect the civilians who have been demonstrating for nearly a year to end four decades of Assad family rule. “Our light and limited weapons cannot confront the tanks and rockets of the regime,” Kurdi said.

The retreat from Bab Amr also called into question the capacity of the disorganized rebel movement to confront one of the region’s most powerful armies, even if weapons do begin to flow. The fighters are equipped only with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades seized from the regular army or smuggled across Syria’s borders.

A statement issued by the Free Syrian Army said its fighters had withdrawn out of consideration for the welfare of the 4,000 civilians trapped in the neighborhood, and because they lacked sufficient weaponry to withstand a stepped-up ground offensive by the better-armed government troops. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had been granted permission by the Syrian government to deliver humanitarian aid on Friday. But a spokesman in the United States, Simon Schorno, cautioned that the organization would have to assess the security situation before deciding whether it was safe to send in a team.

The Syrian National Council, the chief exile opposition group to Bashar al-Assad’s regime, is due to announce a new joint civilian and military command centre to consolidate the armed rebellion and guard against the growth of free-ranging militias. Located in southern Turkey, it would be the first established link between the outside groups and the Free Syrian Army, the loose coalition of army defectors and volunteers battling Assad’s forces. 

There have been concerns among opposition groups that jihadist fighters from inside Syria, but also Libya and Iraq have joined the 11-month struggle against Assad, which has claimed an estimated 7,000 lives. The SNC believes the problem is containable but wants to act quickly. It is also concerned that without a clear command structure, free-ranging militias and armed gangs could form along ethnic or sectarian lines, storing up trouble for the country once Assad’s regime has fallen.

Free Syrian Army [FSA] commander Brigadier General Hussam Awak, who previously defected from the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate, revealed that an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp [IRGC] armored brigade is fighting alongside al-Assad regime forces in Syria. He also claimed that Hezbollah armed brigades – that specialize in snipers, explosions, and guerilla warfare – are supporting the al-Assad regime in suppressing the Syrian revolution. General Awak stressed that these forces are counteracted by increasing numbers of defectors joining the FSA seeking to overthrow the al-Assad regime.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat conducted in Cairo, FSA Brigadier General Hussam Awak revealed that an increasing number of Syrian army forces are defecting from the regime and joining the FSA, in addition to Syrian civilians themselves taking up arms to fight al-Assad regime forces. He also stressed that the Syrian popular resistance forces that are supporting the FSA are undertaking dangerous operations and they have proved their worth on the battlefield.

As for reports that the IRGC is fighting alongside the al-Assad regime force, FSA General Hossam Awak told Asharq Al-Awsat that “on more than one occasion, we have captured IRGC officers and Iranian experts” adding “there is a full armored IRGC brigade operating on Syrian soil and present in the Ahmed Jibril [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command] camps in the Deir al-Ashayar region along the Lebanese – Syrian border. He stressed that “this is information that we are revealing publicly for the first time, although they [the IRGC armored brigade] have been present there since 2007, following Hezbollah’s war with Israel.”

General Awak also spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat about Baghdad’s position on the Syrian revolution, particularly as the next Arab summit is scheduled to take place in Iraq later this month, revealing that “the news coming out of Iraqi Kurdistan indicates that they [Iraqi Kurds] understand the Syrian revolution.” He added “as for the Nouri al-Maliki government, we do not know its position, but this appears to be a government that is affiliated to Iran. However with regards to direct contact with us, the Iraqi government has not issued any position opposing the Syrian revolution, but we hope they understand our situation, particularly as they suffered under Saddam Hussein and Baathism.”

He also claimed that Syrian revolutionary sleeper cells are present in Damascus and that “they will carry out operations in the future”. He stressed that “operations will soon be carried out in Damascus, and we will soon be in control of Syria’s airports.”



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