Syrian Crisis Spreads to Lebanon

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | DECEMBER 10, 2012

Lebanon has experienced this week its worst outbreak of violence so far this year. At least 15 people have died and over a hundred injured in six days of fighting between loyalists and opponents of the Assad regime in Tripoli, the second largest city.

The contagion of the crisis in the neighboring country seems unstoppable, especially in the north, where both the Army and the Executive have been unable to halt spiraling sectarian tension that goes beyond the usual boundaries between the neighborhoods of Bab el Tabaneh (Sunni) and Jabal Mohsen (Alawi, the sect of Assad). Several bombs and mortars fired overnight kept the neighbors awake in areas near Zaharia, Mena and Abi Samra, close to the city center.

The last battle between the two neighborhoods, which has been going on for decades, began early Tuesday after images the mutilated bodies of several Lebanese fighters killed in Syria were disseminated. At least a dozen men, mostly Salafists, died last weekend in an ambush from the Syrian Army in Tal Kabaj.

Three of the bodies arrived this morning to Lebanon through the Arida border crossing in the northern part of the country. The repatriation has lit the fire since early in the morning. At least one of the bodies brought to one of the families has been badly destroyed, which has caused an outcry from relatives at the lack of sensitivity on the part of the Syrian and Lebanese authorities.

On Friday, the continuing conflict alerted authorities. After an emergency meeting, the pro-Syrian government headed by Najib Mikati Sunni got a weak truce that was soon broken by the sound of several explosions in both neighborhoods. Not even the intervention of the Army have stopped the outbreaks of violence.

“I left here,” said Mohammad Nablisi, “people are taking their things and getting out.” In the background, he points to the hill where he says stands Jabal Mohsen. The bullets of shots fired by snipers arrive all the way to his home.

The last six days set off all the alarms and highlighted the inability of the army to impose order while increasing fears abound that the situation goes out of control in an area taken over by the Free Syrian Army. The conflict in the neighboring country, has dragged on for 20 months, and has intensified into an open war that has claimed nearly fifty lives so far this year, while the radical elements are strong in the area.

“When I came here,” said a young refugee from Homs, “I went to Bab el Tabaneh to ask for a weapon to fight against followers of Assad. The Bab el Tabaneh forces are being reorganized around elements inspired by Al Qaeda jihadists and refugees in the neighborhood after the dismantling in 2007 of a croup called Fatah al Islam.

The opposition has used the coup to reload their fight against the inactivity of the pro-Syrian Executive.

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U.S. already chosing new Syrian management team

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 7, 2012

The United States role in the Syrian conflict has gone from “no boots will be on the ground” to “let’s choose who will be the government after Assad”. While the main stream media reports that Washington ran out of patience regarding the work of the Syrian National Council, the truth is that the opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s led government has been influenced by Western forces all along.

The Syrian National Council, which brings together about 60% of the political opposition to the regime is seen as allegedly having failed in its attempt to bring about ‘real change’ to Syria.

This follows from the shift occurred in the last week by the State Department. “We want to make clear,” said Hillary Clinton on a recent visit to Croatia. She then added that “the CNS can not be considered as the most visible leader of the opposition.” The same kind of outcome suffered by the CNS  today is what former Libyan leader had to go through after his western support ran out of patience. Gaddafi was murdered on the streets of Libya by alleged opposition groups that had been armed by the United States after the West decided it was time for him to go.

Clinton’s statement is seen as a direct attack on the opposition movement led from abroad by Abdulbaset Kurdish Seida, who left Syria and now lives in exile. The opposition movement in Syria has failed to carry out the agenda of the West despite the significant help provided by the United States and Turkey. The Turkish government lent its territory to create a revolution that would bring down Assad, but the Syrian government has been able hold on to power. This week, hundreds of Syrian opposition and rebel leaders meet in Qatar to try to redirect the revolution from the other side of the trench.

The rejection by the US state department of the work performed so far by the Syrian opposition movement has publicly questioned the revolution’s role as an organization in which the Muslim Brotherhood has a prominent place.

Last Thursday, State Department spokesman, Patrick Ventrell said during a press conference that after many months, the CNS had not shown its ability to extend its leadership to larger areas of the country that effectively reached other ethnic groups, or other geographies.” According to Ventrell, the U.S.’s former Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, contacted several people to submit their names to those attending the Doha meeting so that they can be considered for positions of power within the CNS.

“We have seen some individuals who have shown leadership and they want to be part of the future of Syria,” said Ventrell. Individuals that U.S. diplomacy has known as conference opponents, but who also lead movements such as the Free Syrian Army (SLA). Although formally rebel commanders maintain communication with the CNS, which has come to send delegations to areas seized from the regime, the management of the war and is in the hands of the militias.

The attempt by the U.S. to change directions was not received well inside the CNS. According to Zuhair Salem,  a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, “the direct tutelage and dictates from the United States are unacceptable to the Syrian people.” While talks about the need for a change in direction are heard, the United States is actively seeking support for such change around the world. U.S. diplomats are working on this refocusing with other members of the Friends of the Syrian people.

Among the groups been contacted by western governments is the so-called National Coordinating Committee for Democratic Change of Syria, which supposedly has a close relationship with China and Russia. Its leader, who lives abroad in Paris, is a doctor and writer known as Haytham Manna. Apparently, he held a meeting last week with the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Committee, which claims to have established links with some brigades of fighters in Syria, does not have a good relationship with the CNS. Manna says their plan is to achieve a ceasefire, start comprehensive dialogue as well as to promote negotiations and a transition without the current president in power. “Bashar al-Assad has failed in recent months to solve the country’s problems,” said Manna. “He belongs to the past,” he added.

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