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  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
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Millions of US $ 21,517 21,900  19,500 67
         
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 US $ 1,160 1,130     1,040 130
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Update No: 107 - (26/01/13)

The Baathist Regime finds strength in the Opposition’s lack of Unity
A group of activists launched, in January, the "National Movement for the Salvation of Syria," (NMSS) which wants to expose the fact that Syria has been over-run by foreign and jihadist interests. One of the main objectives of the NMSS is to oppose any outside interference in the internal affairs of Syria.

The members of the movement support the idea of unity of the Syrian state and have urged Syrians to engage in a national dialogue process and to denounce the actions of the foreigners and various fanatics that have been playing an increasingly dominant role in the revolt.


The group has also denounced the existence of a link between the SNCORF, the Syrian opposition coalition, and al-Qaida which has admittedly been reaching its goal to turn Syria into a second Afghanistan! As for Turkey's role in the war, the NMSS is convinced that Turkey has miscalculated in betting that Assad would be eliminated quickly. Indeed, after the impasse in Aleppo last December, the regime has regained some ground and if Turkey had hoped, or even predicted, there will be no quick demise for President Asad as happened in Libya or in Egypt. The opposition appears more fragmented than ever, failing to reach any agreement in Istanbul on January 21 to form a government for the areas under rebel controlled, setting up an effective opposition harbor as was established in Cyrenaica in the early phase of the Libyan revolt.

The 22 months old Syrian crisis seemed to be reaching the critical point in the past few months of the year, as the armed rebels managed to make important territorial gains in the northern parts of the country and in Aleppo's suburbs in particular. The rebels managed to gain control in many rural areas of Syria but failed to take the necessary measures to consolidate their strength by winning over support from a population in dire need of essential services and infrastructure. There have also been many reports of indiscipline among the rebel ranks, even looting – not to mention fighting between Islamists and Kurdish nationalists – compromising any good will and support from the population. The rebels at one point gained almost total control of Aleppo prompting widespread speculation in the pro-opposition western media how long it would be before Damascus itself would fall and the Baathist regime with it. However, the very same Asad leadership, which was given up for dead and “....having to retreat to the Alawite stronghold of Latakia for survival with President Bashir al-Asad and family finding exile in Russia,” has managed to regain physical and political ground in the first weeks of 2013.

In this period, the opposition has managed to reveal its considerable divisions both within the armed and political ranks. The divisions also exist among the two main Arab backers of the Syrian revolt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Qatar, as in Egypt, has been a vociferous backer of the Muslim Brotherhood and while Hillary Clinton tried last November in Doha to present a more ‘secular’ face within the coalition The Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces" (SNCORF) that replaced the Syrian National Council (SNC), its leader, who would presumably lead a new post-Asad Syria, Ahmed Moab al-Khatib, himself a Sunni Cleric, no less, naturally had close ties to the Brotherhood.

The Saudis did not attend the Doha conference that gave birth to the SNCORF and just as they have in Egypt, where they have backed the Salafi parliamentary forces, so have they backed the more radical fighters – those, who some might even say have links to ‘al-Qaida’. Yet, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are but two of the various countries that have gotten involved and that have steadily led to a deteriorating situation that is tearing the country apart. The bickering between the various foreign powers involved, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are but one example, have been creating a lot of background noise that has effectively prevented the possibility of an agreement between the various groups on the ground and in the halls of politics.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and the Arab League Special Envoy for Syria, has denounced excessive foreign interference in the Syrian civil war. Brahimi said he was deeply concerned "by the reach of the terrible destruction carried out by the government and the opposition, fueled by foreign powers that provide weapons to both sides." This somewhat belated realization, or admission, at an international official level beyond the halls of power of Syria’s allies Russia and China, or Iran, has brought mainstream attention to the importance of the role played by a number of external actors in the fortunes of this conflict. Kofi Annan, who served as special envoy for Syria before Brahimi, had already raised this problem in an earlier phase of the revolt. The former envoy criticized Western governments for their decision to supply weapons to some. Indeed, one of the salient aspects of how the Syrian war has been presented by Western mainstream media, is the minimal or rather lacking aspect in fact, involved in the conflict to defend their choice of arming rebel militias.

Today, as then, the press continues to underestimate the severity of the intervention of U.S. and allies, preferring to continue on the line dictated by Washington, pointing the finger at Russia and Iran and their alliance with Damascus. Brahimi’s criticism has made Asad look more credible; he is no longer the only one to accuse Turkey and some Gulf countries, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia of having supplied weapons to the opposition forces.

In particular, Turkey’s military, has offered political and economic support for the rebels while the oil Gulf States have supplied weapons. The mainstream media has chosen to conceal ‘inconvenient truths’, which could have offered the public a view of international conflict that is not in line with the West’s explanations. The coverage has been marked by reporting of atrocities only when these are perpetrated by government forces!

Violence from the opposition has until recently been ignored. The Free Syrian Army, now one of the groups within the national opposition based in Paris, has engaged in kidnappings; the latest involved nine Lebanese Shiites kidnapped along the border with Turkey, while they were returning from a pilgrimage in Iran.

The military imbalance brought by the Western countries’ – and regional allies - has recently forced the Syrian government to replenish its military ranks, thus creating a militia composed of about ten thousand auxiliary units, including both women and men, ready to support military action against terrorist attacks and the attempted coup. Moreover, alternative groups to the SNCORF are also emerging. A group of activists launched, in January, the "National Movement for the Salvation of Syria," (NMSS) which wants to expose the fact that Syria has been over-run by foreign and jihadist interests. One of the main objectives of the NMSS is to oppose any outside interference in the internal affairs of Syria.

The members of the movement support the idea of unity of the Syrian state and have urged Syrians to engage in a national dialogue process and to denounce the actions of the various fanatics that have been playing an increasingly dominant role in the revolt. The group has also denounced the existence of a link between the SNCORF, the Syrian opposition coalition, and al-Qaida which has admittedly been reaching its goal to turn Syria into a second Afghanistan.

As for Turkey's role in the war, the NMSS is convinced that Turkey has miscalculated in betting that Assad would be eliminated quickly. Indeed, after the impasse in Aleppo last December, the regime has regained some ground and if Turkey had hoped, or even predicted, there will be no quick demise for President Asad as happened in Libya or in Egypt. The opposition appears more fragmented than ever, failing to reach any agreement in Istanbul on January 21 to form a government for the areas under rebel controlled areas, setting up an effective opposition harbor as was established in Cyrenaica in the early phase of the Libyan revolt.

The political failure of the opposition betrays the various ambitions that make it up and some groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, fear losing their influence within a smaller government body. Moreover, the opposition has also heightened fears that Syria could collapse in a sectarian war given the increased frequency of attacks on religious sites by armed groups close to the opposition, according to 'Human Rights Watch (HRW). The NGO has denounced that at least three places of worship were destroyed in northern Syria, in particular a Shiite mosque in Idlib and two churches in the province of Latakia – all attacks occurring after the areas where they were located fell to opposition control.

It should be noted that the Syrian rebellion risks losing some support in the West as the rise of extremist elements has started to creep up. Last December, Washington formally added one of the Syrian rebel groups, Jabhat al-Nusra, as a terrorist organization, linking it to al-Qaida in Iraq. Jabhat al-Nusrah is perhaps the most lethal opposition group, having at its disposal the links and expertise to build bombs and launch the suicide operations that hark back to the events in the past decade in Iraq.

The longer the civil war lasts, the more terrorist groups will find the ideal environment in which to spread chaos and polarization to create another stronghold in the fashion of Afghanistan, Iraq and recently even Mali. As news of the al-Qaida influence and inter-opposition bickering starts to spread, the Syrian opposition risks losing support, at least from the western powers, and in the ensuing chaos, the odds of Asad’s staying in power will go.

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