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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Syria: The Enemy You Know Versus The Unknown:

Nadene Goldfoot
What happens in Syria is most important to Israel as it is a neighbor. On October 4, 2011, Syria's Assad threatened to attack Israel if NATO intervened with their rebels. He said he would fire at Israel from the Golan Heights and would hit Tel Aviv. To do this he would only need 6 hours to transfer rockets and missiles into the Golan, he boasted.

 Syria tangled with their other neighbor, Turkey when they downed a Turkish plane in June of which Turkey is still investigating. Turkey has given shelter to thousands of Syrian refugees that poured across their border.   Syria has now  started firing mortars into Turkey.  Neither state have close peaceful relations with Israel lately.

 The rebellion in Syria is made up of about 120 small groups, each with their own commander wanting power.  The Free Syrian Army insurgency against President Bashar Assad is most confusing.  The rebels are not coordinating their military planning.

Yakzen Shishakly went Syria in February to meet with officers through a Syria-American organization called the Syrian Support Group.  His grandfather had been the  Syrian president in the 1950's, so he has clout. His older brother is Adib Shishakly who said that "growing your beard is the easiest way to get money."  Adib is one of the founders of the political opposition, the  Syrian National Council, who have about 71 members of the 120 groups united.  Their base for meeting is in Istanbul,Turkey.   "The SNC National Charter lists human rights, judicial independence, freedom of the press, democracy and political pluralism as its guiding principles.

The brothers' grandfather was Adib Shishakly (1909-1964), military leader and president of Syria in 1953-54.  He fought with the "Army of Deliverance", a volunteer Arab army in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War against Israel. With his leadership, revenge was more important  than peace with the USA, Britain  and Israel.   His father was born in Turkey and had married a Syrian, so the boys were born in Syria.  He was assassinated in 1964 by a Syrian Druze in  a revenge killing.

A Salafist group, "Soukor al-Sham" is headed by "Abu Issa."  To get money, he visited the Turkish border city of Antakya last week to meet with Saudi businessmen to might donate.  Another Jihadist group trying to get power is the "Majiis al-Shura"  with Mohammed al-Absi as the former leader.  He was killed after raising the black flag of al-Qaida on the Syrian border.  The flag is now gone, but the jihadists and moderates are just beginning to fight each other.  Jabhat al-Nursra, another extremist group, openly boasts of their connection to al-Qaidda.  Yakzan Shishakly tried to warn a US official.  He said, "These people are among us.  If you don't help now, there will be more and more."

Which brings us to our Presidential elections.  This morning's Oregonian's article is that Romney is calling for the arming of Syrian rebels.  He feels that the US must join other nations in doing just this and ousting the president Bashar Assad.  He would organize the rebels who share American values, and work with our allies to make sure they get the arms they need to defeat Assad's tanks, helicopters and fighter jets.  It looks like he could get the help he needs from the work of Yakzan Shishakly.

So far, 32,079 people are the casualties of the Syrian conflict as of Sunday.  Syria is now attacking Turkey as of last Wednesday when a shell hit the house in Akcakale, a border town, killing 2 women and 3 children.  It couldn't have been a wild hit as they have continued every day since then.  The Turks are said to not want a war.  There are no important national interests at stake to warrant a war.  Syria must be sending a message to Ankara so they are not to risk foreign military intervention, which is what the rebels need and Romney is considering.  It will affect Turkey.  Then again, The Turks would be happy to see the present vice president of Syria, Farouk al-Sharaa, become an interim leader.   7,884 members of the Syrian military forces and 1,215 army defectors are fighting with the rebels.

I don't see it as an easy call. I notice that Syria's illiteracy level in the Middle East is at 19%.  They have their fair share of readers compared to other states.   I'm all for keeping the Salafists out of the power role.  They are extreme religious men who are more violent than the Muslim Brotherhood.  Egypt, whose illiteracy level is 28%,   is no longer a known entity in a peaceful position that it was with Sadat and Mubarak. What can happen to Syria?  Is it going to go from bad to worse?

Resource: Syria, a revolt's extremist threat by David Ignatius
Oregonian newspaper 10/9/2012, page A3: Romney calls for arming of Syrian rebels by Kasie Hunt, Steve Peoples, AP,
Oregonian 10/9/2012 page A6 Syria's attacks appear intended to goad

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