Syria’s main opposition coalition began a push Monday to form an interim government to provide services to people living in parts of the country now controlled by rebel forces.
The effort is the most serious yet by the forces opposing President Bashar Assad to establish a rival administration and bring together all the factions working to topple his government.
via Syria opposition pushes to form interim government – Yahoo! News.
A high-ranking Syrian general who once led a military intelligence office widely believed to be a torture site has defected from the army, he said Saturday, a day after the rebels’ top military commander again called for members of the armed forces to join the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, now entering its third year.
via Assad Issues a Worldwide Plea as a Top Syrian General Defects – NYTimes.com.
The U.S. announced this week that for the first time it will provide non-lethal aid to the Syrian rebels. One of the rebel leaders, Salim Idris, was a general in the army of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad until 10 months ago. That was when he defected. In a rare TV interview, Idris spoke to CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan in Turkey.
General Idris took command of the fighters in December. His safety is so precarious he does not sleep in the same place more than one night.
Margaret Brennan: You defected from Assad’s army?
Salim Idris: Yes.
Brennan: You’re fighting your friends right now. What is that like?
Idris: It is very sad. It is not so simple for us to fight against our friends and against our citizens because the army is destroying everything. It is not the army to defend the country. It is an army now to defend the killer, the murderer, Bashar (Assad).
Brennan: The U.S. says right now it’s giving food and medicine.
Brennan: What do you need?
Idris: What really we need is ammunition and I mean anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.
The rebels need those heavy weapons to fight Assad’s military — armed chiefly by Russia and Iran. The Obama administration fears those arms may end up in the hands of extremists. Idris also asked the U.S. for training to turn his fighters into a unified army and to protect against a chemical weapons attack that he thinks Assad may carry out.
via Syrian rebel leader: We need ammunition – CBS News.
The end is near for Assad:
The head of Syria’s military police has defected from the army and declared allegiance to the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
Major General Abdelaziz Jassim al-Shalal was shown making a statement confirming his defection in a video broadcast on al-Arabiya TV late on Tuesday, saying he was joining “the people’s revolution”.
The defection came as a delegation of Syrian officials headed to Moscow on Wednesday to discuss proposals for ending the conflict following talks with the UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Damascus this week.
Wearing his uniform with a red insignia on the shoulder, Shalal spoke from a desk in a room in an undisclosed location. Some rebel sources said he had fled to Turkey. It was not clear when Shalal changed sides.
U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has always been about protesting oil interests. The welfare of the average Muslim or Arab matters very little to them. The fear of an Islamic state far outweighs the murderous acts of a dictator. This is the calculation that the Obama administration has made. We’ve seen it many times before:
We should grant American diplomacy under the stewardship of Secretary Hillary Clinton its due: It ran out the clock on the Syrians. There was always another “Friends of Syria” diplomatic gathering, another meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and always another test of pluralism and inclusiveness that the Syrian opposition had to meet before we deemed it worthy of our support. When Kofi Annan failed and called it quits, another United Nations envoy was dispatched, the Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi.
Mission accomplished: The war in Syria never intruded on the U.S. presidential contest. Many months earlier, in August 2011, President Barack Obama had given up on the legend of Assad the reformer, and called on the Syrian ruler to abdicate. That declaration was the sum of U.S. policy. America had put itself on the side of good things in Syria, and no more needed to be done. “Complexity” was always the cover, and the pretext, for abdication.
[...]The political calculus had its own power: There was no constituency for a Syrian rescue. One would have thought that it is the burden of leaders to lead, to spell out to a skeptical, reluctant public what the stakes are in distant quarrels. But that is too much to ask for in this moment of American doubt and retrenchment.
Syria’s defected prime minister said Tuesday that Bashar Assad’s regime was near collapse and urged other political and military leaders to tip the scales and join the rebel side.
“The regime is on the verge of collapse morally and economically,” Riad Hijab told a news conference in his first public comments since leaving his post and fleeing to Jordan with his family last week. Hijab is the highest-ranking political figure to defect from Assad’s regime.
via Syria’s defected PM Riad Hijab says Assad regime on “verge of collapse” – CBS News.
It would be a mistake for the “rebels” in Syria to take on the pro-Assad forces directly. Whenever you are overpowered materially and in manpower history shows us guerrilla tactics are the way to go. Part of that strategy, which has had varying degrees of success against American troops, is the use of IEDs, ambushing, hit and run tactics. It’s not about territory but defeating and demoralizing the enemy. Drawback: such a strategy requires superior discipline and organization. It is unclear whether the freedom fighters in Syria have that kind of ability. But it can be developed. Let’s not forget the American Revolution was brought about by guerrilla tactics–with the help of foreign governments. The same will work in Syria:
A tense Aleppo braced for the gathering storm on Wednesday as both the Syrian government and the insurgents sped reinforcements to the city, Syria’s commercial capital, to battle over half a dozen neighborhoods where the rebel fighters attempted to assert control.
Sporadic skirmishes erupted throughout the day, with the rebels claiming to have attacked and burned down several police stations in those quarters. Government helicopters circled, residents said, peppering the embattled neighborhoods with machine-gun fire and an occasional rocket while ground troops periodically lobbed mortar shells.
There were no serious engagements reported. But all signs indicated one was looming. After withdrawing all visible security forces, even traffic police, for a day, Syrian Army troops brought in on trucks or buses suddenly deployed around the 13th-century citadel.
Thousands more were en route, according to rebel fighters and activists.
The stunning assassinations of several key Syrian leaders and the outbreak of serious combat in Damascus last week momentarily held out the possibility that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime will rapidly fall. Many hoped for a cascade of defections, a rise in popular demonstrations and a rebel surge to bring down the government.
Those hopes were exaggerated, fueled by a feverish rumor mill, psychological warfare and notoriously unreliable information coming out of Syria. While the regime has been shaken, its military capability stands as demonstrated by its bloody reassertion of control over Damascus. Along with the support of Russia, its determination to survive at any price could draw out the endgame.
via Preparing for Bashar al-Assad’s exit – CNN.com.
Fierce fighting is being reported in Syria’s two biggest cities. The street battles have left parts of Damascus and Allepo in ruins, and it’s forced thousands more civilians to flee the violence.
Until a few days ago, Syria`s two main cities – Damascus and Aleppo – had been bubbles of relative stability, but heavy fighting is now driving a flood over Syria`s borders, thousands of them fleeing to Turkey or here to Lebanon.
They`re seeking safety from a civil war that has finally come to their doorsteps.
via Syria’s biggest cities seeing fighting now – CBS News.