Friday, September 23, 2011

Libya's Demonstration Effect: Armed Revolt Works

Nir Rosen spends several weeks in Syria and finds a growing belief in the need to take up arms among the opposition:
"Abu Omar was a senior coordinator in the country's six-month-old uprising and was involved in opposition activities since 2007. He lamented that to date, the revolution had only succeeded in costing the lives of three thousand people.

"'After Libya, many people said it was a mistake to have a peaceful revolution and if they had done it like the Libyans they would be free by now,' he said.

"As I spent more time in Syria, I could see a clear theme developing in the discourse of the opposition: A call for an organised armed response to the government crackdown, mainly from the opposition within Syria. Demonstrators had hoped the holy month of Ramadan would be the turning point in their revolution, but as it came to an end - six months into the Syrian uprising - many realised the regime was too powerful to be overthrown peacefully.

"Previously, on August 25, I met with a senior opposition leader in Damascus' large suburb of Harasta, an anti-regime stronghold. The government had cracked down harshly on demonstrations there, though the armed opposition had been able to kill many members of the security forces.

"'In the end we cannot be free without weapons,' the leader said. 'It's necessary, but not by the people, by the army; we need defections.'

"A few days later, on August 28, I attended an anti-regime demonstration in the Bab Assiba neighbourhood of Homs. Demonstrators there were calling for a no-fly zone, much like the one imposed over Libya. Many of them hoped for international intervention."

Rosen goes on to argue that opposition cannot simplistically adopt the Libya model to change their regime. Part of the problem is a simple lack of weapons and training, which leaves them hoping for more significant military defections. He also doesn't see how Syria's geography would allow for the creation of a resistance enclave which could be protected from the air. The second point seems debatable, but I definitely don't see Assad's rule collapsing unless the resistance is able to win more support, including broad support in at least some regions. I'll be looking in further dispatches to see whether Rosen sees that as possible.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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