Syria opposition continues to fragment

On July 8, the self-styled “National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces” met once again under U.S. direction in neighboring Turkey. But instead of it bringing greater unity, “Prime Minister” in exile Ghassan Hitto resigned his position. Hitto is a U.S. citizen.

Political disunity has escalated to armed confrontation among these reactionary rebels. This is acknowledged even by the corporate media that have anointed them at various times with phrases like the “democratic opposition.” Wrote the New York Times on July 13: “Competing rebel factions in Syria are increasingly attacking each other in a series of killings, kidnappings and beheadings, undermining the already struggling effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad.”

On July 11, Kamal Hamami, a member of the “Supreme Military Command” of the “Free Syrian Army” was killed by a rival rebel group said to be affiliated with al-Qaida in the coastal province of Latakia. In Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, fighting was reported between the FSA and Islamic fundamentalist forces over control of an important checkpoint in the Bustan al-Qasr district. (AP report on, July 13)

The embattled checkpoint was the scene earlier in the week of angry protests by Syrian civilians. They were furious that the rebels were preventing them from crossing the checkpoint to shop for food. The rebels claim they are besieging the western section of Aleppo in order to force the civilian population to flee before a new ground offensive. Since about 2 million Syrians live in the government-controlled western areas, the impossibility of this strategy becomes obvious. Later reports stated that the checkpoint had been reopened.

Many other reports are now surfacing of rebel groups fighting over control of villages and cities as well as who will control foreign aid and food being supplied to rebel areas by the Western imperialist nations and their Middle Eastern monarchist allies.

Pressure on the reactionary rebel forces has continued to mount after a successful Syrian Army assault on the rebel stronghold of Qusair. Heavy fighting in the larger city of Homs, north of Qusair, is close to driving out rebels who controlled important areas of that city for the past two years.

The failure of the U.S.-directed rebels to oust Assad and carry out another “regime change” creates a difficult political situation for the Obama government. Washington has to decide whether to continue to arm and direct these rebel groups, more directly intervene in the war, or pull back and accept defeat.

The U.S. ruling class is deeply invested in this adventure and is loath to accept defeat. While Secretary of State John Kerry said publicly only recently that the U.S. had decided to directly arm rebel groups, it was exposed earlier this year that the CIA had already been coordinating huge shipments of weapons to the rebels through Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The New York Times reported on June 30 that the U.S. had sold large Boeing C-17 military transport planes to its Middle Eastern allies in 2008 that were then employed to ship weapons to the mercenaries who were used to bring down the Libyan government.

If the administration decides to intervene more directly in Syria, it was reported, “The United States Central Command’s forward base in Qatar gives the American military a command post in the heart of a strategically vital” region. (New York Times, June 29) Hundreds of U.S. troops are now positioned in both Jordan and Turkey, near the Syrian borders.

But Washington also has to consider the support that Syria is receiving from Russia and China. The Russian government has publicly warned the United States not to try to establish a “no-fly zone” over Syria. The U.N. Security Council, dominated by the Western imperialist powers, declared such a zone over Libya in March of 2011. Russia and China abstained at the time, not using their veto power to stop it. The no-fly zone became the prelude to a massive NATO bombing campaign against both military and infrastructure targets in Libya.

The U.S. government is no doubt pondering the meaning of a huge joint Russian-Chinese naval exercise in the Sea of Japan held July 5-12, which included live-fire drills. It was the largest such joint exercise between these two powers and came just weeks after U.S.-led war “games” by 17 countries held in Jordan.

Protests inside the United States in recent weeks have drawn world attention to the fact that there is little support among the people of the U.S. for another military adventure. Demonstrators in Los Angeles, Detroit, New York and other cities responded to an unprecedented joint call for protests issued by all major anti-war organizations in the United States. (

Speaking in Damascus, but echoing widespread sentiment throughout the world, Saúl Ortega, member of the Venezuelan National Assembly, told the speaker of the Syrian People’s Assembly, Jihad al-Lahan, “The Syrian people are struggling against the powers of international imperialism in order to preserve Syrian sovereignty and independence; the victory of Syria is an important matter to Venezuela.” (Sana News Agency, July 2) n

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