Fiddling while Syria burns
Syria is a swirling cauldron of battles and tragedies as the thirty-day countdown begins for the January 22, 2013 United States-Russia sponsored peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland. (Image)
Syrian government sources reported between 80 and 100 killed in Adra, an industrial town northwest of Damascus. Al Qaeda aligned Al Nusra rebels and the Saudi sponsored Islamic front entered the town on December 12 after a series of defeats in the surrounding area. Reports indicate that Christian and Druze Syrians were singled out. According to local workers, rebels infiltrated factories then began shooting workers. Workers staged a protest on December 20 demanding a response by the United Nations and support from the International Labor Organization.
Battles between the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and rebels heated up in Aleppo, Syria's largest city, and the mountainous Qalamoun region near the border with Lebanon.
For the past week, government bombardment of rebel areas in Aleppo has intensified dramatically. Attacks on rebel strongholds in the city occur daily. Activists the city say that the military action is the most intense since the start of the conflict in 2011. The regime is allegedly using "barrel bombs" targeting rebel groups holding out in the city. The Archbishop of Aleppo described this Christmas as "one of sadness and bloodshed."
The SAA operation in Qalamoun was launched last month with cautious words by the Syrian government. The operation would be thorough and time consuming, we were told. This assessment was unduly cautious. By December 9, the SAA had taken Nabek, which helped speed the withdrawal of the governments chemical weapons supplies. The SAA is currently attacking Yabrud, the "last rebel stronghold" in the region. This attack comes after a series rebel held towns fell to advancing government forces.
The SAA's goal in this effort is to limit rebel supplies coming through Lebanon and open the route from Damascus to Homs and Aleppo in the north. A larger goal might be a final push to take Aleppo prior to the January 22 Montreux talks.
As Syrian's suffer, the United Nations and the NATO states that self-righteously spurred on the conflict do nothing. The idea of a peace conference is almost laughable. The strongest fighting forces on the rebel side are Al Qaeda aligned Al Nusra and ISIL plus the newly formed Islamist jihadist alliance called the Islamist Front, heavily backed by Saudi Arabia. Don't expect to see either of these groups represented at the negotiating table. They've indicated that they don't want to attend and the Obama administration can't afford to sponsor a conference where jihadists and Al Qaeda franchises represent the rebel cause.
That leaves the rebel representation up to the Free Syria Army (FSA). FSA's leader, General Idris, is ensconced in Qatar. The Saudi and Al Qaeda factions have murdered several FSA commanders lately. Who will speak for the group that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton found so appealing?
The UN and its International Labor Organization are largely silent on the massacre in Arda. The UN representative to the region, Lakhdar Brahimi, announced without comment that the U.S. had nixed Iran's participation in the conference. There will be twenty-six nations in attendance. Somehow, Iran is deemed unacceptable while Turkey will be there despite strong backing for rebel military operations.
Arguing the point of who will attend, however, ignores the reality of the situation. The rebels with power don't want to go or can't for political reasons and the rebels that can attend lack any power.
Immediate action could end the conflict quickly. Foreign fighters could be with drawn from the country and military supplies to rebels ended. That would limit the intensity of battles and shorten the conflict. Lives would be saved and the momentous rebuilding project could begin.
That won't happen. The carnage will continue until some other opportunity to demonstrate complete irrationality presents itself to the very worst collection of leaders imaginable in the U.S. UK, France, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.