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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Will the FSA 'free' Syria?

I'm not sure that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) strategy is going to work in favour of the Syrian people. I'll canvas why below. 

Initially, the FSA welcomed the assistance of Jabhat al-Nusra (a.k.a Al Qaeda) in their uprising against Syria’s Assad government and appear to have agreed to set aside any religious and ideological differences. With Syria being home to a diversity of religious and non-religious persons and Al Qaeda known to be a fundamentalist Islamist group characterised by many countries as a terrorist organisation, it was inevitable that eventually Al Qaeda would push their own agenda while Syria is unstable thereby creating an obstacle to freedom and democracy in Syria. Reading The Guardian, it appears this process has begun:
"But then they [al-Nusra] began to reveal themselves," said a senior rebel commander in Aleppo. "The situation is now very clear. They don't want what we want." 
Over the past six weeks a once co-operative arrangement between Aleppo's regular Free Syrian Army units and al-Nusra has become one of barely disguised distrust.

So why did the FSA forge this relationship? If the FSA were seeking freedom and democracy from what they perceived as sectarian rule from Assad’s government, then cosying up to an extremist group seeking sectarian rule is counterintuitive. It negates the very reason for the revolution.

The Guardian reports (in article cited above) that the relationship appears to have formed because of the sophisticated weaponry and military support that Al Qaeda militants were able to provide in the early days. FSA leaders are now claiming that they will fight Al Qaeda once Assad is overthrown (see article cited above). But if Al Qaeda were more sophisticated in the beginning, how is it exactly that the FSA think they will overcome the likely opposition of Al Qaeda militants if Assad’s regime is overthrown? And what benefit is there for the people of Syria, if the internal conflict remains after the fall of Assad?   

I suppose, if Assad is overthrown then the FSA may have at their disposal the weaponry of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), but many of these rebels are not trained soldiers and the calibre of weaponry (e.g. chemical weapons) would be catastrophic to all Syrian’s if used to counter Al Qaeda resistance. Alternatively, what happens if Al Qaeda secure the SAA weaponry for themselves?  This is a concern of the FSA (see article cited above). 

Assad has called for negotiations with the FSA to form a new government. The FSA have repeatedly refused to negotiate with Assad and have affirmed that they will only negotiate after Assad resigns. On that note, if the FSA won’t negotiate with Assad, who do they expect to negotiate with? Assad was elected as President by the Syrian people, although it is questionable whether the electoral system is democratic. According to many, its a complete farce, while others claim it's a fair system.  Irrespective, if the FSA refuse to negotiate with an elected President, they effectively refuse to acknowledge a significant proportion of Syrian citizens (who do support Assad and his regime) and their right to be represented in any negotiations going forward. Otherwise its simply one tyranny replacing another. 

It is worth noting at this point, that while many Syrian’s deem Assad's regime as a totalitarian dictatorship, there is a significant proportion who support his government. However, there are also those who are against the FSA but do not by default support Assad, and those who are against Assad but do not necessarily support the FSA. 

For perspectives against the FSA:
For perspectives against Assad:
Syrian Revolution Digest
Farid Ghadry: Thoughts on Syrian Politics and Islam –

There are also a couple of documentaries from the FSA perspective and the SAA perspective: 

People & Power: Syria - Songs of defiance 

The Syrian Diary