Ribelli, più forti e motivati?

I ribelli siriani riescono a tenere il controllo di alcune zone di confine, specie a nord di Idlib e a ovest di Damasco. In alcuni casi dopo negoziati con le stanche truppe governative. La nebulosa dell’Esercito libero ha cominciato a ricevere in maniera significativa armi leggere, danaro e telefoni satellitari. Non solo dai Paesi arabi del Golfo ma anche da ricchi uomini d’affari siriani all’estero.

Altri loro colleghi, che negli anni si sono invece arricchiti all’ombra del regime di Bashar al Asad finanziano le milizie irregolari (shabbiha) per lo più composte da quadri alawiti. Questo e altro nell’ultimo articolo dedicato alla Siria dall’Economist, che conferma il fatto che le recenti stragi attorno alla montagna alawita possono essere state commesse nel quadro di una più ampia e più a lungo termine strategia dei clan al potere da oltre quarant’anni.

(The Economist) The ceasefire in Syria brokered by Kofi Annan, an envoy and former secretary-general of the UN, is unravelling. After several weeks of holding back somewhat while being pummelled by government forces, bands of armed rebels gathered under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army are now on the attack and gaining ground.

A number of towns have come under their control, admittedly in some cases after covert negotiations with tired units of the government. “We have no need for the regime because we run ourselves,” says a man from Wadi Barada, a string of villages in a valley close to Damascus, reeling off an impressive list of social services, including imprisoning criminals, that are provided by the armed resistance.

Rebel morale and organisation have improved thanks to a growing (if still modest) command structure. Military councils have in some areas replaced ad hoc committees. The rebels’ political and military wings may also end months of bickering. The Syrian National Council, which sees itself as a government in waiting, chose as its new leader Abdelbaset Sieda, a moderate Kurd who has voiced sympathy for the Free Syrian Army.

Light arms, money and satellite phones—long promised by supporters—are starting to flow into rebel hands. Most come from wealthy Gulf Arabs who see no other way of influencing a conflict that has already claimed more than 12,000 lives. Even Syrian businessmen overseas who used to give money only for field clinics have become more willing to pay for arms.

Still heavily outgunned, the rebels are using guerrilla tactics. Analysts monitoring video footage from citizen journalists inside Syria say at least 25 tanks have been destroyed since May 29th. Bombs and roadside ambushes have some government forces pinned down. In the country’s north-west they mostly move around in armoured cars, and in the south other units have had to reinforce their security bases.

One thousand soldiers have been killed since April 12th, reckons Rami Abdul Rahman, the head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. This has increased the pace of defections from what has hitherto been a largely cohesive army. On June 10th an air-defence battalion of 100 men close to the western town of Talbiseh defected en masse, making off with guns and grenades before the regime sent helicopters to destroy their base.

In Damascus, the capital, clashes between regime and opposition forces are frequent, often close to government offices. On June 8th a few hundred rebels carried out co-ordinated attacks, including the attempted bombing of a ministerial building. “We really feel the Free Syrian Army’s presence for the first time since the start of the revolution,” says Razan Zaitouneh, a lawyer in the capital who documents civilian deaths. Violence elsewhere in the country has sent many Syrians fleeing to the capital, bringing the fight with them.

Yet the opposition is still no match for the military might of the regime, which is resorting to ever greater brutality. Helicopters have been used to attack Haffeh, a town in the west besieged by government forces for more than a week. Reports of rebel sympathisers burnt alive have become common. The UN says a growing number of children are tortured and killed, often by pro-government militiamen known as the shabiha.

The term originally referred to bulky men from the ruling Assad family and related clans who operated with impunity as smugglers and extortionists in the coastal town of Latakia during the 1970s. Since then it has come to mean radicalised thugs in the pay of loyalists. They receive up to $130 a day from businessmen who grew rich under the Assads. “There is no chance of the regime getting back authority, so the only option in certain areas is to send in men to slaughter locals,” says an influential analyst.

Many of the shabiha have shaved heads, thin beards and white trainers. Most but not all are from the Assads’ minority Shia sect, the Alawites. Recruiting them appears to be relatively easy. Alawite communities increasingly fear for their safety and encourage their young men to join the militia. At one recent funeral, Alawites criticised the regime for not doing more to protect them.

Radical elements among the Alawites in the north-west are said to be contemplating a plan to clear nearby Sunni villages and create a rump state that is easy to defend. This might explain recent massacres in Houla and Qubeir, both Sunni farming settlements on the fault line between Sunni majority areas and the Alawite heartland. The men who slaughtered 108 people in Houla on May 25th came from the neighbouring Alawite town of Kabu. “We know the people who massacred our families,” says a local man who goes by the name Abu Yazen. “There wasn’t a problem before, but in some areas the regime is succeeding in creating a sectarian war.” (The Economist, 15 giugno 2012).