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Zabadani Ceasefire Collapses As Fighting Spreads – OpEd

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The cease fire in Zabadani has collapsed due to government strikes on the city, reports Brian Whitaker of the Guardian. Earlier the BBC announced that the Syrian army ‘agrees to ceasefire in Zabadani’, which had been reported by Radwan Ziadeh in the US. There was some excitement about the cease-fire development when it was first announced because it suggests that the Syrian military is overwhelmed by the spread of conflict to towns on the outskirts of Damascus. It also suggests that regions of Syria were falling out of government control and staying out of government control to create a “Libya like” situation where rebels could operate and organize without remaining on the run.

Opposition members argue that the Free Syrian Army based in Turkey are spearheading and commanding the fight in Zabadani. Nir Rosen, who has recently come out of Syria after a two month stay, argues on al-Jazeera (linked below) that the opposition claim of the existence of a centrally commanded Free Syrian Army is a myth. He claims that the militias that are springing up in different towns are locally commanded and organized and do not take orders from Col. Asaad or his FSA in Turkey. If this is true, it suggests that multiple militias are emerging, which may eventually struggle for command of Syria and take the place of the Syrian Army, unless they can negotiate some agreement on a central command. In the meantime, it is convenient for the opposition to call opposition forces the Free Syrian Army.

Film of the death of of the French journalist near the end of the clip. Friends explain that this film was taken in Homs in an Alawite neighborhood, which was hit by a mortar, killing a number of people on the street and the French journalist. Opposition sources argue the mortar was launched by government operatives in order to make the opposition look bad for killing civilians and to stir up civil war. Government sources blame it on opposition forces who are firing on Alawi districts. They argue that mortars cost only $400 and can be smuggled from Lebanon and Iraq without much trouble. This film clip is proof of how difficult it is to understand what is going on based on YouTube movie clips.

Sky News broadcast this Homs story from a team that visited the Alawi and Christian neighborhoods of Homs. As the reporter explains, the pro-Assad sentiment and reports of torture by opposition members expressed in this story are as one sided, but perhaps as representative, as other reports from opposition neighborhoods, such as the BBC report “Syria Undercover” broadcast a month ago. It is worth noting that Alawis and Christians only make up about 20% of Syria.

Syria Comment - Joshua Landis

Syria Comment - Joshua Landis

Joshua Landis maintains Syria Comment and teaches modern Middle Eastern history and politics and writes on Syria and its surrounding countries. He writes “Syria Comment,” a daily newsletter on Syrian politics that attracts some 3,000 readers a day. It is widely read by officials in Washington, Europe and Syria. Dr. Landis regularly travels to Washington DC to consult with the State Department and other government agencies. He is a frequent analyst on TV and radio.

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