Insight – Aleppo misery eats at Syrian rebel support

Introduction – Jan 9, 2013

The fact that the corporate media is now reporting how the so-called “Syrian opposition” is losing support among Syrians is indicative of more than disillusion.
From the outset there have been numerous reports illustrating how the ‘Syrian opposition’ lacked widespread popular support. How, moreover, many in the movement were not Syrian at all but were outsiders recruited and financed by the Gulf States to help oust Assad.
Although the corporate media has largely overlooked this, and the opposition’s lack of grass roots support among Syrians, it is now singing a different tune.
While the report below still omits to mention that many opposition fighters are not even Syrian, saying instead that the opposition fighters are “recruited from surrounding rural areas” outside Aleppo, it does acknowledge growing mistrust of the opposition among residents of Syria’s second largest city.
Why this sudden change in tone? Has the corporate media now decided to report truthfully on events unfolding in Syria? Or is there another reason?
A few days ago it was reported that the U.S. administration had decided to abandon the assorted armed opposition groups calling themselves the “Free Syrian Army”.
Now as if on cue Reuters is reporting on growing mistrust of the movement among residents in Aleppo. Is this a coincidence? Or is the Reuters report simply in accordance with the Obama administration’s recent directive to abandon support for armed opposition groups in Syria?
Either way this sudden change in tone recalls reports about Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. Remember them? The endless media speculation about them and how it all suddenly ended when once Iraq had been invaded it was discovered that there had been no WMD program.
Watch for a similar change in the tone of coverage of reports on events in Syria in the coming weeks and bear in mind the Obama administration’s directive.

Insight – Aleppo misery eats at Syrian rebel support

Yara Bayoumy – Reuters Jan 9, 2013

At a crowded market stall in Syria, a middle-aged couple, well dressed, shuffle over to press a folded note, furtively, into the hand of a foreign reporter.

It is the kind of silent cry for help against a reign of fear that has been familiar to journalists visiting Syria over the past two years. Only this is not the Damascus of President Bashar al-Assad but rebel-held Aleppo; the note laments misrule under the revolution and hopes Assad can defeat its “terrorism”.

“We used to live in peace and security until this malicious revolution reached us and the Free Syrian Army started taking bread by force,” the unidentified couple wrote. “We ask God to help the regime fight the Free Syrian Army and terrorism – we are with the sovereignty of President Bashar al-Assad forever.”

While they might not be all they seemed – agents of Assad’s beleaguered security apparatus want to blacken the rebels’ name – their sentiments are far from rare in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city and once vibrant hub of trade and industry, whose diverse urban communities now face hardship and chaos at the hands of motley bands of fighters recruited from surrounding rural areas.

As government forces fight on in parts of Aleppo, in large areas that have been under rebel control for six months or more complaints are getting louder about indiscipline among the fighters, looting and a general lack of security and necessities like running water, bread and electricity in districts that have been pounded by tanks and hit by Assad’s air force.

Recognising that mistrust, rebel units have set up command and policing structures they see forming a basis of institutions which might one day run the whole country and which, meanwhile, they hope can show Arab and Western supporters that they have the organisation to handle aid in the form of money and weapons.

For those who fear the worst for Syria now that the revolt has unleashed long suppressed ethnic and sectarian rivalries, however, evidence in Aleppo that these new institutions have had little practical impact on often rival rebel groups is ominous.

And all the while relations grow testier between the rebels and Aleppines, for whom many fighters harbour some disdain after the urbanites’ failed to rise up on their own against Assad.


Rebel commanders interviewed in and around Aleppo in the past two weeks acknowledged problems within the FSA – an army in name only, made up of brigades competing for recognition and resources. But they laid much of the blame on “bad apples” and opportunists and said steps are being taken to put things right.

“There has been a lot of corruption in the Free Syrian Army’s battalions – stealing, oppressing the people – because there are parasites that have entered the Free Syrian Army,” said Abu Ahmed, an engineer who heads a 35-man unit of the Tawheed Brigade, reckoned to be the largest in Aleppo province.

Abu Ahmed, who comes from a small town on the Turkish border and like many in Syria would be identified only by the familiar form of his name, estimated that most people in Aleppo, a city of over two million, were lukewarm at best to a 21-month-old uprising that is dominated by the Sunni Muslim rural poor.

“They don’t have a revolutionary mindset,” he said, putting support for Assad at 70 percent among an urban population that includes many ethnic Kurds, Christians and members of Assad’s Alawite minority. But he also acknowledged that looting and other abuses had cost the incoming rebels much initial goodwill.

“The Free Syrian Army has lost its popular support,” said Abu Ahmed, who said the Tawheed Brigade was now diversifying from fighting to talking on civic roles, including efforts to restore electricity supplies and deal with bread shortages. His own wife was setting up a school after months without classes.

Hunger and insecurity are key themes wherever Aleppines gather this winter. Outside a busy bakery in one rebel-held neighbourhood men complained of having to stand in line for hours in the hope of bread, and of feeling the need to arm themselves for their own protection on the streets of the city.

Schools are being stripped of desks and chairs for firewood.



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