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Syrian opposition makes gains

Bradley Hughes

November 30, 2012

The opposition to the dictatorship in Syria is continuing to make military gains against the regime's army, and has united into a political body. The challenge will be continuing to raise social and economic demands, mobilizing the working class not only against Assad but the broader system of repression and austerity. 
In late November the Free Syrian Army was able to take territory moving them closer to major cities such as Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia and the capital city Damascus. The rebels have also succeeded in seizing three major military bases from the regime within one week.  These bases will be a source of much needed weapons. Due to the arms embargo on Syria, the opposition forces have been at a severe disadvantage in weaponry against the regime.Their biggest disadvantage comes from the regime's continued use of fighter jets against the FSA and civilians. Another success came earlier in November when the rebels captured Hamdan airbase, a military airport. This leaves the regime with only one airport from which to launch their fighter planes.
President al-Assad has responded to the successes of the opposition with even more bloodshed and terror. Nearly 40,000 people have been killed in the fighting so far, the vast majority at the hands of the regime. In the latest in a long list of atrocities, the regime bombed a building next to a hospital in Aleppo. The hospital was previously damaged by attacks so the upper floors were no longer usable. Despite the damage it continues to try to provide emergency services to civilian victims of the regime's snipers and opposition fighters. The latest attack killed 14 people including a doctor and children who were in the street.
On the other hand, there have been reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that some rebels are also responsible for war crimes such as executions, torture, and arming children to fight with FSA. These are isolated incidents, unlike the Syrian government whose actions indicate a clear policy of torture and attacks on civilians. However, these sorts of actions will make it harder for the opposition to win people's support and also could discourage government soldiers from surrendering as a means of joining the opposition. 
In early November, the Syrian opposition groups singed a deal to create a united opposition, the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces. The deal was agreed to in Qatar, and representatives of that government and of Turkey urged other nations to consider the new body as the legitimate representative of Syria. France, a former colonial power in the region also recognized the new body. Reluctantly, the Syrian National Council, a body made up of exiles also joined the agreement. Britain and the US condescendingly put up conditions for their recognition of the legitimacy of the Syrian opposition. Their conditions include providing a transition plan.
Britian's General Sir David Richards, was quoted on his government's plans to invade Syria: "The humanitarian situation this winter I think will deteriorate and that may well provoke calls to intervene in a limited way. But no, there's no ultimately military reason why one shouldn't, and I know that all these options are, quite rightly, being examined. It's not impossible and obviously we develop contingency plans to look at all these things."
This was NATO's strategy in Libya: impose an arms embargo that weakens the opposition, and then use the resulting casualties as an excuse to invade--using military intervention to shape the political future of the country by purging the socioeconomic demands of the revolution. An invasion by Britain or other NATO countries would be a disaster for the people of Syria.
As the Egyptian revolution shows, another threat to the Arab Spring is from within, from opposition forces that want to contain the revolution to a change at the top. As the opposition has united against Assad into a body acceptable to France and right-wing exiles, it will be important for the left in Syria to keep organizing independently so social and economic demands of the revolution do not get buried, and to continue combining economic with military resistance to Assad.

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