Syrian rebel: Uprising is an 'orphan revolution' without foreign support
Feb 26, 2012
The principal military adviser to President Barack Obama says it is premature to aid in arming the Syrian opposition, reinforcing the belief of a rebel commander that the uprising is an “”orphan revolution”” without the international support prevalent in other Arab Spring revolts. The claims follow opposition reports that at least 23 people died Sunday in attacks by Syrian forces, while President Bashar al-Assad’s regime lashed out over the killings of a provincial attorney general and judge. Rebels denied the killings, saying the judge was an opposition sympathizer. It is this type of near daily see-saw claim of violence that has added to the growing frustration over how to bring about an end to al-Assad’s brutal crackdown that has left thousands dead in a nearly year-long campaign to crush the opposition. Diplomatic efforts have all but failed, with two of the most powerful nations — China and Russia — vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on al-Assad to relinquish power, and the Arab League suspending an observer mission amid escalating violence in the country. There has been a growing call among some in the international community to arm the opposition, which is best described as a network of faceless activist and opposition groups that include a loosely organized rebel army and militias. But not everyone, including the United States, is in agreement. “”I think it’s premature to make a decision to arm the opposition movement in Syria, because I would challenge anyone to clearly identify for me the opposition movement in Syria at this point,”” Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday on CNN’s “”Fareed Zakaria GPS.”” In one rural village in northern Syria, the face of the opposition is farmers, carpenters and university students, according to CNN’s Ivan Watson, who is one of the few reporters in Syria, where the government has placed strict restrictions on international journalists and refusing many of them entry at all. Watson said the men of village of Binnish describe themselves as members of the rebel Free Syria Army, “”but it would be much more accurate to call them an impromptu village guard. Many of them are defending the olive groves that surround their community, with little more than hunting shotguns.”” The rebel commander in Binnish — who defected from the Syrian army six months ago — said the men don’t have enough guns or ammunition. He called the Syrian uprising as an “”orphan revolution”” because unlike the revolts in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen, the Syrian rebels have received the foreign support. Like many members of the opposition, the commander covered his face during the interview to hide his identity out of fear of reprisals by Syrian forces. But Dempsey, an Army general who served two tours of duty in Iraq, warned that Syria is “”an arena right now for all of the various interests to play out.”” Those interests include neighbors such as NATO ally Turkey; the region’s Sunni and Shiite Muslim powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran, which is Syria’s leading ally; and the al Qaeda terrorist network, which has shown signs of interest in the conflict, he said. “”There’s a number of players, all of whom are trying to reinforce their particular side of this issue. And until we’re a lot clearer about, you know, who they are and what they are, I think it would be premature to talk about arming them,”” Dempsey said. Syria’s uprising began amid the “”Arab Spring”” demonstrations in March 2011, when longtime autocrats fell in Tunisia and Egypt and others found themselves battling popular revolts. Syria’s government responded by unleashing police and troops on anti-government protesters calling for more political freedoms, a movement that quickly spiraled into opposition calling for al-Assad’s ouster. Al-Assad has, for the 11 months of the uprising, blamed “”terrorists”” and foreigners for threatening the stability of Syria. Nearly all other reports from within the country, however, tell a different story. Amateur video footage and opposition reports released via social media and telephone calls from the embattled city of Homs have documented 16 straight days of bombardment, with explosions from mortars and tank shells launched by Syrian forces every few minutes, people bleeding to death in the streets for lack of medical attention, and snipers picking off civilians running for cover. “”Is today Sunday? Wednesday? Saturday? I honestly don’t know all days have become same here in #Homs- they begin and end with shelling #Syria,”” tweeted @Samsomhom. Ten people in Homs were among the at least 23 killed across Syria on Sunday, according to the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) of Syria, an opposition network. In the 11 months of Syria’s uprising, almost 9,000 people have been killed, the LCC estimates. CNN cannot independently verify opposition and government reports of casualties. Meanwhile, al-Assad’s regime lashed out Sunday after the assassinations of a provincial attorney general and a judge in Idlib province. Attorney General Nidal Ghazal, Judge Mohammed Ziyadeh and their driver were fatally shot on their way to work by an “”armed terrorist group,”” the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported. The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights acknowledged the deaths, but said the three were killed by “”unknown assailants.”” Idlib rebels denied responsibility for the assassination, claiming that Ghazal was an opposition sympathizer. “”The regime continues with a series of assassinations of leaders and officials who sympathize with the rebels,”” said a member of the opposition coordination committee in Idlib province, who asked not to be identified because of security reasons. “”What the regime is trying to do is frame the rebels as criminals,”” said the opposition member, citing the recent killing of the Red Crescent director in Idlib, Dr. Abdel Razak Jibaro, as an example of this strategy. Rebels said they kidnapped the son of a top security official in Idlib, Brigadier General Nofal Hussein, in retribution for Ghazal’s murder.