We begin with a debate over the next steps in ending the Syrian conflict. With the collapse of Lakhdar Brahimi’s truce during the Eid Al Adha holiday and an expected refocus on conflict in Syria after the U.S. elections, observers are looking at the upcoming opposition conference in Doha for a potential breakthrough. The international intrigue that surrounds such deals has sparked some interesting conversations among political activists.
One member of the Local Coordination Committees, the grassroots network that runs protests and humanitarian efforts around the country, used a prominent activist’s analysis to start a Facebook conversation. A portion of the discussion is translated below.
The consensus for these activists is that the Syrian National Council and other political figures in the opposition may form a government in exile with guidance from Arab and international players. Brahimi, under the auspices of the international community, will then oversee negotiations with the Assad regime.
One major hurdle to this scheme is that any government that’s formed outside of Syria wouldn’t be seen as legitimate, one of the activists said. Another pointed out that a government in exile may work, but it would have to “provide real military, financial and political support for the revolution,” otherwise it would fall out of favor just as like the Syrian National Council.
Complicating any potential political deals is the relentless violence, which is creating more fissures among opponents of the Assad regime, with some supporters of the revolution placing much of the blame for the death and destruction on the rebels. While most agree that the revolution remained peaceful despite facing lethal force from the Assad regime for many months before military defectors and civilians started shooting back, the proliferation of armed rebel groups has undoubtedly led to an escalation in violence.
Concerns about drifting to a violent revolution were raised from the early days in Daraa and peaceful activists worked hard to convince people to shun weapons. But the desire to fight couldn’t be suppressed indefinitely. Many activists, especially those in Aleppo and Damascus who have more assets to lose, held their tongues as the rural battles raged early this year, but are now speaking out as the fighting edges closer to their neighborhoods.
Below is a Twitter conversation that’s an example of this debate. Edward Dark, a handle for an activist from Aleppo, said “the people of Aleppo certainly don’t love the regime, but they hate the rebels even more.” Journalists who visited Aleppo over the past few months report that some local residents resent the presence of rebels because destruction soon follows. Winning the hearts and minds is vital for a successful guerilla movement, and losing opponents of the Assad regime must concern rebel leaders.
The increasingly visible presence of foreign fighters and glorification of jihadi rhetoric isn’t helping assuage those who fear the armed rebels. And a video of Saudi fighters singing praises of Bin Laden and promising to slaughter Alawites in Binnish, Idlib, which surfaced last week, exacerbates those fears. While the crowd didn’t seem to know the words to the Al Qaeda songs, they clapped and danced in response. But the transformation of the town from a model for self-governance as Anthony Shadid observed shortly before his death in Syria in February, to a cradle for Al Qaeda shows the dangers of allowing the Syrian conflict to fester.
We end this week’s post with a look at the regime’s propaganda machine, which continues to churn out the regime’s storyline with vulgar flair. Its latest effort to dissemble isn’t as tasteless as Addunya’s report on the August 2012 massacre in Darayya, where the reporter actually interviewed a small child who was clinging to her dead mother, but it has spurred one activist to deconstruct the footage.
Syrian TV reported that the army captured a truck filled with explosives, weapons, communication devices, “day vision” goggles and medical supplies, and killed and arrested a number of militants. The station’s own cameras showed semi-naked dead men in a pile with freshly-pressed FSA uniforms placed on top of them. The scene is described in great detail in one activist’s clip (Arabic).
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