Syrian Rebels capture UN Troops, face Raqqah bombings, are pledged UK Armored Trucks

The Syrian civil war heated up on several fronts on Wednesday.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague on Wednesday painted a horrific picture of the situation in Syria and went on to pledge armored vehicles and body armor for the Syrian rebels, as a ‘humanitarian’ measure. Russian media accuse the US, Western Europe and Jordan of setting up training camps for the Syrian rebels in Jordan. It is also rumored that Saudi Arabia is funding the Jordanian bases. It is likely that the Jordanian facilities, and Hague’s pledge of the most significant Western equipment provision yet seen, are attempts to create a southern front at Deraa, which would be anti-fundamentalist (in contrast to the main recent action in the north, where Qatar-backed fundamentalists have made the impressive gains). An excerpt from Hague’s speech:

A million Syrians have by now been made refugees by the fighting, about 1/20th of the country (equivalent to 15 million Americans suddenly left homeless). I think most people don’t realize what a refugee is. It is a role, not an identity. It is one that any of us can abruptly be forced into. Refugees had homes, they just had to flee them. They had wealth and property, they have suddenly lost it. They are homeless, and dependent on the kindness of strangers (mostly strangers are not that kind). The Syrians actually displaced from their homes are a small proportion of those who have been hurt by the fighting in some way.

Jordan’s airlines announced earlier this week that they would no longer fly to Beirut over Syrian territory, which set off speculation on the Arabic web that a decision has been made to give the rebels shoulder-held missile launchers capable of taking down aircraft (this is just speculation; and, it should be noted that they seem already to have some, which might be what Royal Jordanian Airlines is reacting against).

Meanwhile, the Arab League is moving to replace Syria’s seat in the 22-member organization with representatives of the Syrian opposition.

A group of rebels took 20 United Nations peace-keeping troops in the Golan Heights captive on Wednesday, accusing the UN of backing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. (The UN Security Council has in fact neglected to condemn al-Assad’s vast violence against his own people, which has risen to the level of crimes against humanity. This failure of the UNSC, however, derives from the Russian and Chinese veto rather than from a UN preference for al-Assad in general). To have such an even occur in the Golan must alarm the Israeli leaderhip; Israel has occupied Syria’s Golan Heights since 1967.

The group circulated a video in which they demanded a withdrawal of Syrian military forces from their area and threatened to do something to the hostages in 24 hours if the regime refused.

In Raqqah, a provincial capital in the north, rebels faced heavy bombing raids by Syrian fighter jets as they continued to battle to wipe out the few pockets of resistance in the city to their conquest. There was heavy fighting on the ground against the hold-out Baathist troops. The rebels also captured the provincial governor and the provincial head of the Baath Party; these are the highest-ranking officials to fall into their hands. In another northern city, Hasakah, there were three large explosions of bombs targeting important Baathist buildings.

CNN reports on the situation in Raqqah. That the rebels (mostly in this case the fundamentalist Jabhat al-Nusra) now control almost all of Raqqah gives them one of the larger provinces of the Syrian north. Syria has 14 provinces, and the rebels now have a strong position in many parts of about half of them, mostly those in the north.

9 Responses

  1. It is remarkable that Gulf dictatorships are fueling the violence by arming the rebels & the US is openly allied with them in this effort. Juan knows as well as anyone that the Saudis have no interest in promoting freedom & democracy in Syria or anywhere else. Why is it when the US facilitates arming the Syrian rebels that’s not helping them to “kill their own people”?

    • The U.S. isn’t “openly allied with them in this effort.” The Gulf dictatorships and the US are competing, not cooperating, by backing different factions within the rebellion.

      Why is it when the US facilitates arming the Syrian rebels that’s not helping them to “kill their own people”? Because the Assad dictatorship isn’t “the people,” and because the FSA factions the US is backing are not targeting the general populace (unlike the Assad government, which seems to be the only player in the drama you didn’t think to criticize, despite being the worst human-rights violator by a mile, and the reason the peaceful protests turned into a civil war).

    • Exactly.
      This Saudi Arabia fueled war is going to calamitous for the minorities in Syria and the whole region. Saudi Arabia is one of the most regressive place on this planet.
      Majority Saudi citizens are America-haters yet in the same old cold war style we are working with these forces of social regression and fueling sectarion conflict in another country. Shame … Shame.

      And for god sakes dont say that “Assad was killing his own people” BS. This whole conflict would not have started if it were not for the support of Sunni-extremist monarchies of the region.

      • Any number of US-supported dictatorships around the world attest to the fact that ‘killing his own people’ has generally been a second-order concern for the US Government.

  2. “which set off speculation on the Arabic web that a decision has been made to give the rebels shoulder-held missile launchers capable of taking down aircraft (this is just speculation; and, it should be noted that they seem already to have some, which might be what Royal Jordanian Airlines is reacting against”

    How is that different from this:

    New York Times:

    “The Chinese missiles were part of a larger shipment interdicted by American and Yemeni forces in January, which American and Yemeni officials say was intended for the Houthi rebels in northwestern Yemen. But the presence of the missiles in the seized contraband complicates an already politically delicate case.

    The shipment, which officials portray as an attempt to introduce sophisticated new antiaircraft systems into the Arabian Peninsula, has raised concerns in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen, as the weapons would have posed escalated risks to civilian and military aircraft alike.

    And it has presented the Obama administration with a fresh example of Iran’s apparent transfer of modern missiles from China to insurgents in the larger regional contest between Sunni-led and Shiite-led states, in which the American military has often been entwined.”

  3. reports in Russian media about training camps in Jordan —
    that’s not really a new development.

  4. Syrian rebels have seized a convoy of U.N. peacekeepers near the Golan Heights and say they will hold them captive until President Bashar al-Assad’s forces pull back from a rebel-held village which has seen heavy recent fighting.

    They think Bashar al-Assad cares about UN Peacekeepers?

    What a bone-headed move. Now Assad gets to play Mr. U.N.

  5. So we have Iran caught shipping Chinese surface to air missiles to Yemen. We have Saudis paying Jordan to transfer Croatian surface to air missiles to Syrian rebels. We have missing surface to air missiles from Libya being found in transit in the Sinai. How long before any of these are used against civilian airliners? Months?

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