Via EAWorldView, this from the Guardian’s Ghaith Abdul-Ahad:
Captured government vehicles and weapons have been crucial to the rebels since the start of the conflict, but according to Hussam and other commanders, and fighters interviewed by the Guardian over a fortnight in northern Syria, a new phase has been reached in the war. Looting has become a way of life.
“Spoils” have now become the main drive for many units as battalion commanders seek to increase their power.
…In a dark apartment in the Salahuddin neighbourhood of Aleppo we sat with a group of commanders who were discussing the formation of a new brigade that would bring their various battalions together. They soon turned to the topic of loot.
One of the commanders present had led an operation into the predominantly Kurdish neighbourhood of Ashrafiya in Aleppo, but according to several fighters who were there the action failed when the army counterattacked because the rebel support units that were supposed to reinforce the front instead turned their attention to looting.
“I want to know exactly what you took that day,” the commander of a small unit told the leader of the assault. The commander opened a notebook to write, while another man held a flashlight above his head. “As long as one fights while the others are busy collecting loot we can’t advance,” he said. “The loot has to be divided equally.”
The leader started to list the luxury cars and the weapons his units had found and taken, while the other commander wrote them down in the notebook. Some of the cars would be sold back to the owners — if they paid out a hefty ransom.
These are the folk the US and the West have decided to back. I wrote in July that it was premature to write Assad off just yet, even though many were predicting his regime’s imminent collapse. I still feel the same way, even if friends like Shashank Joshi disagree. I simply don’t think they’re making enough account of how factional and fractured the opposition really is, nor of how many competing agendas can yet blow up in the rebels’ faces. redictions of Assad’s collapse made FP magazine’s list of the worst crystal-ball gazing of 2012. I’ve a feeling they’ll be in the 2013 list too.