Missteps by Rebels Erode Their Support Among Syrians

NYT, By Anne Barnard

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syria’s rebel fighters — who have long staked claim to the moral high ground for battling dictatorship — are losing crucial support from a public increasingly disgusted by the actions of some rebels, including poorly planned missions, senseless destruction, criminal behavior and the coldblooded killing of prisoners.

The shift in mood presents more than just a public relations problem for the loosely knit militants of the Free Syrian Army, who rely on their supporters to survive the government’s superior firepower. A dampening of that support undermines the rebels’ ability to fight and win what has become a devastating war of attrition, perpetuating the violence that has left nearly 40,000 dead, hundreds of thousands in refugee camps and more than a million forced from their homes.

The rebel shortcomings have been compounded by changes in the opposition, from a force of civilians and defected soldiers who took up arms after the government used lethal force on peaceful protesters to one that is increasingly seeded with extremist jihadis. That radicalization has divided the fighters’ supporters and made Western nations more reluctant to give rebels the arms that might help break the intensifying deadlock. Instead, foreign leaders are struggling to find indirect ways to help oust Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

And now arrogance and missteps are draining enthusiasm from some of the fighters’ core supporters.

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2 comments to Missteps by Rebels Erode Their Support Among Syrians

  • adrena

    UN says 11,000 Syrians have fled the country in past 24 hours into Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon

    Washington Post (via AP)

    ANKARA, Turkey — At least 11,000 Syrian refugees have fled their country in single day, pouring into Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon with children and dozens of wounded, U.N. officials said Friday. Some desperately climbed over razor-wire border fences to seek safety.

    Most of the surge in refugees was due to the 9,000 fleeing into Turkey, including more than 70 who were wounded, U.N. officials said. Jordan and Lebanon each absorbed another 1,000 refugees.

    The civil war in Syria has killed more than 36,000 people since an uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began in March 2011.

    Panos Moumtzis, the U.N. refugee agency’s regional coordinator for the region, described the flood of people as “the highest that we have had in quite some time.”

    He said the escalation — much more than the average 2,000 to 3,000 Syrians fleeing daily — brings the number of Syrian refugees registered with the agency to more than 408,000.

    The new arrivals bring the number of refugees in Turkey to around 120,000.

    More at the link

  • adrena

    Assad says only “ballot box” can decide his future

    Raw Story (via AFP)

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said his future could only be decided through the ballot box, in an interview with Russian television where he warned the country could face a protracted war.

    Assad told state-run Russia Today (RT) that whether the president can “stay or leave” is a “popular issue” and “the only way (it) can be done (is) through the ballot boxes”.

    “It is not about what we hear. It is about what we can get through that box and that box will tell any president to stay or leave very simply,” said the president, speaking in English.

    In the interview with a Russia Today correspondent recorded in Damascus, he also denied Syria was in a state of “civil war” but said the conflict with rebels could be “a long-term war” if they continued to receive support from abroad.

    Assad described as “unprecedented” the support which he said the rebels were receiving from abroad in terms of arms, money and political backing.

    More at the link

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