Syria: The Chaos of the Armed Movement and the Organisation of the Syrian Revolution

[As we continue to seek more information about, and verification of, the politics and developing alliances and unity of Syrian opposition forces, we received this report on important issues and developments of the armed people’s struggle against the Assad regime.  While it is focused mainly on internal developments, the Syrian people’s debate over rejecting or requesting military assistance from outside is not discussed or examined.  We look forward to information on this cardinal issue. — Frontlines ed.]

from Yassari, Edition 11, by the Left Coalition in Syria – Mid-September 2012

The introduction of arms to the Syrian revolution, after months of peaceful struggle, did not come out of the blue, nor was it simply an emotional reaction. There were some parties who, from the beginning, called for arming the revolution and advocated violence. However, it was surely the increasing violence used by the authorities that made peaceful youth, who completely believed in a peaceful movement, change their minds, especially when the regime involved the Syrian army in a war against citizens at the end of July 2011, and when they adopted increasing tactics of killing and humiliating the people in Syria from August 2011.

There is no point, therefore, regretting the move from peaceful demonstrations, or fearing this significant step now. There is not even any point discussing it now. We have moved from the phase that the revolution started with, the peaceful spontaneous demonstrating of ordinary people, to the revolution of all methods, with demonstrating and fighting taking place together. Since we have reached this phase, it is important now to study the problems, as the revolution is now in need of planning, by learning from previous lessons and organising all elements.

Sensitive issues need to be addressed here. First, how to organise the armed struggle (connecting groups and finding clear strategies of how to develop this struggle). Secondly, how to coordinate between the armed movement and the popular movement, especially since the armed struggle has stolen all the attention and popular demonstrations have become marginal. Third, we need to think of how to organise and control the free areas, which are not under the control of the authorities anymore.

The armed people in Syria are actually separate groups who all call themselves “Free Army” (this is dangerous because it is a vague phrase which anyone could use) – some of them defected from the Syrian army (these are the main foundation), some are sectarian, and the rest, the majority, are ordinary people, with no experience in working with wars and weapons, and therefore they only undertake defence, and when they attack instead, lots of mistakes take place. They have made mistakes, but they haven’t learnt from them. The main mistake has been basing themselves inside residential neighborhoods, and staying there until the regime forces attack and destroy them, which has had a very negative effect on the popular movement there and almost stopped it in some areas. “Liberating” areas without considering the strength of the regime’s forces means aggravating the struggle instead of developing it. What is important now is to focus on attacking the sensitive centres, the army on their way to control cities, and the locations where rockets and cannons are based.

Most of these fighters are the same young people who took part in the demonstrations at the beginning of the revolution. They are fighting today without sufficient training, and with light weapons which they obtain from military warehouses or purchasing from weapons dealers at high rates. They won’t obtain any better weapons to win this war because those providing them with weapons don’t want the war to end. Thus, these groups are not able to turn into an army, and they will not be able to compete with the regime’s forces. They shouldn’t locate themselves at the centre of residential areas for a long time. Warfare at the street level requires replacing the policy of being at the centre with a dynamic policy, moving all the time, and the sudden attack of security and army centres, instead of waiting for them to attack first.

This requires an advanced military strategy against a regime using all its military abilities. It needs coordination between groups and organisation of their activities. It also requires forming a structure to being together these groups, with rules and laws to control their activities and their relations with the public, as well as their actions towards the ‘shabiha’ forces and the army officers who are fighting against their people, or even those who are in the Syrian army, but have not been involved in killing.

We must fear not pushing aside the extremist religious groups, in order to save the revolution from their foolish military or sectarian mistakes. We must not fear any conflict with them now, because it is much better to get rid of them than to wait until they become stronger later. It is one of the Free Syrian Army’s duties to protect ‘minorities’ now, who support the Syrian regime or are silent, to protect them from crimes which these extremist groups could commit against them. Some of these groups were formed to commit such crimes against ‘minorities’, who are part of the Syrian people, even if they are silent, hesitating, or only a small part of them is taking their part helping the Syrian revolution, because they fear the Syrian regime, or because they are not happy with the statements of some people in the Syrian opposition, or even fear the Gulf’s media and those behind it. It is very dangerous to allow some parties to play the sectarian game under the umbrella of the revolution. This only causes more fears for these people, and makes them even more convinced that the regime is the least scary option. What we need now is the exact opposite, we need to show them that the revolution is owned by all the people (including themselves), and we need to protect the public institutions in Syria, and the security of the people, since the situation here could allow gangs to control areas because the police is not able to protect people there.

The military strategy we need must support the people and their activities. We must recognise the popular movement, since it is the most powerful tool in this revolution. The revolution will not win without the popular movement, which causes more trouble to the regime than the weapons the revolutionaries have. The might of the revolutionary armed movement is dependent on the popular movement, and should not destroy this movement by moving to the centre of the residential areas in which the popular movement is based. This will eventually cause the destruction of these areas, since it is impossible to defend them, leading to the migration of the demonstrating people from these areas, becoming a burden in need of help rather than the main element in the revolution.

The strategy requires re-organising coordinating committees everywhere by learning from the experience they have gained during the revolution, so they can motivate the public movement. They should study the situation to organise when and how to demonstrate and what slogans reflect the revolution’s goals and the demands of the people involved. They also need to draw the main policies, to avoid counting on the international community and focus on the movement inside the country instead.

We should prepare to control the areas where the regime has no authority anymore (we are not saying these areas became librated, as mentioned above). We need to fulfill our duties by supplying the people with their daily supplies and to set up an alternative authority, to provide security.

To achieve that, we need to find true leadership from local committees and the armed groups together, as well as other community bodies which could organise the relations between parties, draw up the general policies and represent the revolution by working on achieving its goals.

In conclusion, the goals and policies of the revolution should be made clear now, after all the complications the revolution has been experiencing. It is very important to organise our work for the revolution, and to prepare to form an alternative authority with the collapse of the regime day by day. The regime may be making a last attempt, but it will fail as previous ones failed too. Therefore, there is no point being spontaneous anymore, and there is no space for confusion anymore. We need to forget about a purely military solution, and realise that the idea of ‘liberating cities’ doesn’t work. We are not Libya, and will not be. We must commit to our popular movement, supported by an armed movement to paralyse the forces of the regime and upset their military logistics.

We have progressed very well so far. The regime is no longer the strong side, and therefore we must organise ourselves to use this advantage and move the revolution forward.

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Yassari, Edition 11, by the Left Coalition in Syria – Mid-September 2012

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