Syria´s rebels have a new villain: the United States (CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR) By Scott Peterson ALEPPO, SYRIA 08/02/12)
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR Articles-Index-Top
The US has stepped up its rhetoric against President Assad and is
providing covert support to rebels. But for many fighting the Assad
regime, it is not enough.
For those challenging the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad,
the list of villains has always included the regime´s closest allies:
Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.
But as the death toll rises and Syria marks 17 months and counting of
revolt, many in the embattled city of Aleppo say they have added
another, perhaps surprising, villain: the United States.
The US is an arch-foe of the Syrian regime. US officials have stated
plainly and repeatedly that Assad "must" go. And President Barack
Obama earlier this year signed a secret order authorizing clandestine
aid to rebel forces, it was reported today.
But in the rebel-held enclave of Salaheddin, guerrilla gunmen and
ordinary Syrians alike wonder why the US has not acted to stop the
killing by at least ending the Syrian Army´s artillery bombardment
and imposing a no-fly zone on the helicopters and planes that menace
them from the skies.
"We all believe the US and all Western countries want Assad to stay
in power," says the coordinator for the Revolutionary Council in
Aleppo, who gave his name as Abu Thaier.
"I believe that Syrian intelligence up to this moment is cooperating
with the CIA," the wizened revolutionary told the Monitor. "The
Westerners are afraid of the destiny of Israel; this is what stops
them. Assad takes advantage of that, and says, ´These terrorists
[rebels] will go to Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan and we must crush
them.´... Western countries gave up on the Syrian people because they
believe most demonstrators are Islamists," he says.
´Petroleum is worth more than Syrian blood´
Syrians under fire from government troops often bring up Washington´s
perceived neglect when they see an American journalist.
"We look on Americans as the most important people to look after
democracy," says Abu Thaier. "We consider the torch of freedom in New
York a torch for all humanity, not just America. We hope that the
Statue of Liberty did not yet lose its real meaning."
He brings up Libya and the US-orchestrated NATO intervention last
year that was instrumental in ensuring that rag-tag rebels were able
to bring down Muammar Qaddafi. The only difference, he asserts, is
that Libya has oil, and Syria does not.
"They think petroleum is worth more than Syrian blood," asserts Abu
Thaier. "Now if you are living in Western countries, if someone kills
50 or 100 [pet] animals, the response would be more than for
The United Nations puts the death toll in Syria at 17,000, while
rebel groups assert that it is closer to 20,000.
US officials would take issue with that pessimism. Almost a year ago,
Mr. Obama stated: "For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has
come for President Assad to step aside."
And earlier this year Obama approved an intelligence finding that
authorizes the CIA and other US agencies to support the rebels
against the regime, Reuters reported today.
Under provisions of the finding, a government source acknowledged to
the news agency, the US was "collaborating with a secret command
center operated by Turkey and its allies" at Adana, 60 miles from
Turkey´s southern border with Syria, which also hosts the US air base
and intelligence center at Incirlik.
That work was being done with Saudi Arabia and Qatar – the Persian
Gulf sheikhdom that last year sent special forces troops to eastern
Libya to assist anti-Qaddafi rebels.
"The White House is for now apparently stopping short of arming the
rebels directly, even though some US allies are," the agency reported.
Dissatisfaction, even among evidence of US help
Indeed, there is evidence on the ground that weaponry is getting
through to this frontline at critical moments of the fight. During
three days in Salaheddin, the Monitor witnessed supplies arrive
overnight in unmarked gray-painted wooden crates, just hours before
Syrian government forces launched a tank assault.
The rocket-propelled grenades and shoulder-held launchers in those
boxes were among those that stopped a handful of tanks and armored
vehicles – and the Syrian advance.
That night – after more than 15 hours of fierce artillery bombardment
on the five- and six-story apartment blocks in this rebel-held
district – a factory-fresh Dushka-style heavy machine gun arrived
with crates of ammunition.
When asked in recent days what he would tell Assad, the US Defense
Secretary Leon Panetta replied: "I would say if you want to be able
to protect yourself and your family, you better get the hell out now."
The timely military support may well have had US help getting to
Salaheddin, in some way. But many Syrians in the enclave felt
abandoned, acutely aware that Russia and China had vetoed UN Security
Council resolutions that would have reprimanded the regime and
The US knows "how to end it" but does not, says a gynecologist
volunteering in a rebel field hospital, named Umm Huda. "In my
opinion, they want [Assad] to stay, to protect the borders of Israel.
Iran and the US, they do it together. They are enemies, but they are
more than friends."
"We see America the same as the Russians and Assad," says Mohamed, a
civilian from the neighborhood.
"Do you believe America does not know who is doing the killing?
America has the capability to know everything," he says, voicing a
common view. "But every day we listen to Clinton and Obama, who
say ´This should stop.´ And what do they do? Nothing, nothing. At the
beginning of the revolution we asked for a no-fly zone. We believed."
One rebel fighter shows a text message that appeared on his mobile
phone: "... [the] America government would not help us and they will
pay heavy price for this."
Another rebel fighter called for the US to provide anti-aircraft
weapons. "My heart is burning just to destroy this helicopter," he
said, as regime helicopters circled over the district, firing bursts
from their heavy machine guns, and occasional rockets.
"Give us Stingers! Give us Javelin!" shouted another rebel.
"The Syrian people insist now to topple this regime... we will go on
with this revolution until they are all gone," says Abu Thaier. "We
insist that we respect the American and Western people, and we
request they share with us their humanity, as we all share living on
this planet." (© The Christian Science Monitor. 08/02/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY