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May 21, 2012

Inside Syria: An opposition divided


Opposition Says it has Killed Top Six Regime Figures, But Claim is Doubtful

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

This photo of an opposition banner hung on a dormitory at the University of Aleppo shows the growing reach of the opposition in Aleppo. Another sign of the growing capability of the opposition is its ability to set off car bombs with growing regularity near intelligence offices and in Syria’s major cities, such as this one: Car bomb hits Syrian city of Deir al-Zour, killing 9 instantly and wounding 100. An intelligence headquarters was the target.

But the assassination of Syria’s six top security officials and Baathists seems beyond the capabilities of the opposition just yet.

According to the Guardian, Heavy clashes were reported in Damascus overnight and in a video message (Arabic), the Free Syrian Army claimed to have killed six key figures in the Assad regime.

The six men killed are reportedly:

1) Asif Shawkat (Head of Syrian intelligence)
2) Mohammad Shaar (interior minister)
3) Dawood Rajha (defence minister)
4) Hassan Turkmani (vice president’s deputy)
5) Hisham Bikhtyar
6) Mohammad Saeed Bkheytan

But it is safer to doubt these claims until they are proven true. The opposition has no coordinated information outlet and many competing news sources, so exaggeration and disinformation seems to be the order of the day. For example, the opposition continues to insist that every car bomb and explosion at an intelligence headquarter is set off by the Syrian military itself in order to blacken the reputation of the pacifist opposition.

This does not make sense for many reasons.

1. Why would the mukhabarat kill itself? No mater how evil one presumes Syria’s intelligence agents are, it remains unlikely that they would kill themselves in such great numbers. This is a bit like believing that the CIA is so evil that it killed the people in the World Trade Center to give President Bush the pretext to invade the Middle East and kill Muslims.The willingness of Western news agencies to repeat these opposition claims demonstrates that Westerners are just as prone to conspiracy theories as are Arabs. All it takes to believe in conspiracy theories is to demonize your enemies to the point that you can believe they will carry out any operation in order to advance their devilish aims.

2. It makes sense for the opposition to set off car bombs in down town areas. Classic stage-two insurgency tactics call for terrorist acts in public places to make the regime look weak and to provoke it to lash out in rage, killing innocent people and provoking more and more neutrals to hate the regime and side with the insurgency. Targeting intelligence headquarters is smart as it accomplishes all of these opposition goals.

Addendum: MM writes in the Comment Section:

Your conclusions are all wrong.

The connections make complete sense to the outside observer, however, to the internal Syrian, even those pro-Regime (within their heart of hearts) – the truth is evident.

–1. Why would the mukhabarat kill itself?

They’re not. All the important Allawites on-site left well before the attacks. Show me the list of martyrs and show me who’s who. Do they contain high ranking Allawite officers? There have been no funerals in the Allawite neighborhoods in Damascus for any Allawite Intelligence officers. No CCTV footage was captured, nothing – cameras were dismantled the week before (they learned this after the first bombing almost blew their cover — and to some extent did).

–2. It makes sense for the opposition to set off car bombs in down town areas.

No, it doesn’t. It provides fodder for bloggers like you and Syrian TV commentators to point fingers at the opposition, insinuating that the opposition is entirely or significantly radical, which justifies and warrants regime response. There’s no benefit here to the opposition — we don’t want to be in the position of having to explain to the world stage that this is a regime tactic as opposed to Al-Qaeda elements potentially fighting alongside us. Killing a few intelligence officers, even if we wish death upon them, won’t win the war here. This regime has a repertoire of Intelligence buildings — the ones attacked are nothing and sacrificing a few for their cause is worth it in their view.

We all know that the regime is not dumb (in certain respects) – they have smart people concocting PsyOps measures to subdue the population and other strategies to ward off western military intervention. They are effective. They got the American administration to say Al-Qaeda has a presence in Syria. They fooled certain elements in the Obama administration. You can’t get any better than this result as a regime plotter. You got the only nation capable of removing you from power to state that the enemy they have been fighting since Sept 11, 2001 is involved in Syria’s unrest. You can’t sell the idea of intervention to the American people at this point.

My own personal assessment was that I was initially unsure of the first couple of car bomb attacks — was this indeed a “third force” that was intervening in the Syrian conflict? However, there was no doubt who dunnit when I saw the aftermath of the most recent car bomb attacks (or bus bomb?). The crater is larger than anything ever seen in Iraq. My personal assessment, based on my Engineering training, is that it would require a significant force — the types of explosives not available in the Terrorists’ kitchen which requires a Government’s complicity. Some pro-Regimites may implicate Gulf nations, however, they would have no interest in undermining our cause. The first car bomb had a deleterious effect on the Opposition and subsequent bombs were progressively worse on us.

Furthermore, the true military wing of the Opposition – the Free Army, has consistently denounced each bombing. The political wing of the Opposition has done the same. Which branch of the Opposition are you implicating here? If it is a third force, then it’s not part of the genuine opposition movement in Syria – it is out of our hands and we wish for them to stop. But it’s not — all these bombs seem to have found their mark. Bonafide suicide terrorists detonate early more than half the time, but we haven’t seen any of this (I hope I’m not giving the regime ideas here, I’d rather not). These attacks are carried out with quite some precision.


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