PL - "Perhaps UW would work in Syria?"
TTG - "Don't see why not. I heard reports of units of former soldiers taking on the Syrian army. Someone should teach them how to fight like guerrillas before they all get killed."
This brief email exchange last night, and Colonel Lang's suggestion to write something up, spurred me to do some reading on the Syrian situation. I know precious little beyond what I see in the headlines, but what I'm seeing, I like… especially the news article that Colonel Lang just pointed out.
VOA reporting out of Cairo today breaks down the three main Syrian opposition groups and describes their similarities and differences. "The Arab League's recent ultimatum for a withdrawal of security forces, the release of jailed opponents and dialogue has some activists calling it a strategic move that highlights the Syrian government's plight. Cairo-based activist Mohamed Aloush says if the regime implements the Arab League plan, it is finished - if it does not implement the plan, it is finished as well."
Syrian opposition groups agree on one thing… the status quo cannot hold. However, they have different ideas about how to break the status quo. "The National Coordination Committee, led by Hassan Abdul-Azim, is a mainly Syria-based group. It hopes to persuade the government to reform through dialogue and building civil institutions. The Turkey-based Syrian National Council's supporters prefer the group's rejection of dialogue with the government of Assad and just want him to leave. Supporter Abdel Kader of the opposition Syria Media Office says the Syrian National Council represents the "Syrian street," and that can be seen in a recent rally in its support, which he says drew millions of people."
"The Free Syrian Army, made up of some of the estimated 10,000 military defectors, was initially formed to protect civilians, but some members have recently gone on the attack." These are the people I was referring to in my answer to Colonel Lang. Turkey has actually set up a refugee camp for deserters from the Syrian army. "The idea of armed resistance is gaining traction among some government opponents. Activist Taha Khelo has been keeping vigil outside Arab League headquarters in Cairo. Khelo calls for a no-fly zone, to keep the Syrian military under control, and the creation of a buffer zone for civilians as well as military defectors from which they can attack government forces."
This sounds a lot like Libya, but Syria is certainly not Libya. Russia and China will not fall for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Syria. I also doubt NATO is willing to foot the bill for another no-fly zone. Perhaps the biggest drawback to a no-fly zone is the impression (and fact) that a no-fly zone is just another form of Western invasion. A NATO led no-fly zone would be too big, too noisy and too photogenic to ignore. It drowns out the real sacrifices and accomplishments of the rebels. This is what happened in Libya and an OpEd piece by Ramzy Baroud today in the Eurasia Review warns of a Western hijacking of the Syrian uprising.
A better course is the UW approach of sabotage, subversion and guerrilla warfare. The Syrian rebels can be armed and trained to create their own no-fly zone. Didn't we do this with the mujahideen heros in Afghanistan? The Syrian rebels should also be trained to use guerrilla tactics rather than taking on Syrian security forces toe to toe. Target government lines of communication. Ambush fuel and supply convoys. Be patient. Gradually wear down the government forces and allow the opposition groups to coalesce and strengthen. Turkey's cooperation in this UW approach would be needed. Keeping the footprint to no more than a hundred or so SF trainers and advisors, preferably working with the Turkish military, would draw less international attention that a no-fly zone and, I would argue, be more effective. I stick by my initial answer to Colonel Lang.