Surprise withdrawal of Syrian guerrillas from East Ghouta as Regime advances

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The Syrian War is largely over, but the regime of Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers appear determined to mop up the remaining enclaves of rebel opposition, despite sweet talk of de-confliction zones and of negotiations in Sochi or Astana. It would be better at this point to come to a political settlement, since the regime has won but is still weak in many areas, and a compromise is not impossible.

Instead, Damascus is making a drive for the complete restoration of the power of the one-party Baath government, with all its fearsome police state tactics of torture and prison killings on a large scale.

Al Jazeera is reporting a sudden departure of opposition rebels from the East Ghouta enclave near Damascus on Friday night. The Saudi-backed Army of Islam (Jaysh al-Islam) fundamentalist militia in East Ghouta appears to have been holding captives from a rival militia, the Syrian Conquest Front (formerly Nusra Front, with alleged al-Qaeda links). The Army of Islam released its captives so that they could leave for Idlib.

The move comes amid an intensification of the assault on the enclave by the government of Bashar al-Assad in cooperation with Russian Aerospace Forces, which have intensively bombed it in recent weeks. Humanitarian organizations have decried the deaths in this bombings of nearly 1,000 persons, many of them civilians and children. International law forbids deliberate targeting of civilian sites or reckless disregard of civilian welfare during a military campaign.

The first batch of some 13 fighters from the Syrian Conquest Front were permitted to leave East Ghouta early Saturday and to make their way to the northern province of Idlib.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Arab Army, led by the Fourth Mechanized Division, has taken several city blocks in the Harasta suburb of East Ghouta away from fundamentalist militias. It appears to be attempting to cut a highway key to supplying the rebels.

One of the foremost military commanders of the Brigade of the All-Merciful was killed Friday, which the group acknowledged.


Bonus video:

EuroNews: “Opposition fighters leave Syria’s rebel-held Eastern Ghouta”

3 Responses

  1. From the very beginning Assad has expressed his primary purpose as being to recover the land in its entirety and he has remained consistent. If, as is written here, the war is largely over it hardly seems a moment to compromise. Compromise is for more or less equal opponents at loggerheads to make concessions. That does not appear to be the situation. The regime looks determined to mop up remaining enclaves of rebellion one way or another to avoid them festering. It would rather seem time for the rebels to lay down their weapons, and I imagine if they made such an offer the regime would accept it, and lives would be saved. If that were to happen and the regime refused, that would be a time for external remonstrance. The breakdown of International Law is what enabled this mess to start in the first place, but once started there is little else for it but reversion to old fashioned Machiavellian solutions. The rebels appear to have lost. They might have won. Perhaps they don’t believe they have lost. If that’s the case they still need to be persuaded. Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.*

    *an epigram attributed, by the way, to the Elizabethan inventor of the flush toilet

  2. “It would be better at this point to come to a political settlement, since the regime has won but is still weak in many areas, and a compromise is not impossible.”

    I assume that Professor Cole’s comment is based on input from reliable sources. But if the male egomaniac commanders know more then Cole, his above opinion could be wrong. But then the commanders probably want a complete kill of the opposition.

    Killing seems to be the mantra of “all” the militaries.

    I would appreciate other informed opinions.

    My dyslexic prejudiced opinion is that the US Military Industrial Complex wants unending wars for money, power and control of foreign governments.

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