World View: Syria's Opposition Pulls out of Talks After Scud Missiles Hit Aleppo

This morning's key headlines from

  • Syria's opposition pulls out of talks after Scud missiles hit Aleppo
  • Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra gains in popularity and influence
  • A new influx of heavy weapons reaches the rebels in southern Syria
  • An Egyptian army comeback threatens a clash with Muslim Brotherhood

Syria's opposition pulls out of talks after Scud missiles hit Aleppo

People run after hearing a missile strike in Aleppo on Friday (Reuters)
People run after hearing a missile strike in Aleppo on Friday (Reuters)

At least 12 people, including children, were killed and dozens wounded on Friday when three surface-to-surface missiles, assumed to be Russian-made SCUD missiles, struck the northern Syria city of Aleppo. This came just four days after 33 people including 15 children were killed in nearby Jabal Bedro.

Syria's opposition leaders had been scheduled to meet with Western leaders in Rome, Moscow and Washington in the next few weeks, but after the latest missile strikes in Aleppo, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) pulled out of the talks. According to the SNC:

"[The withdrawal is] a message of protest to all governments of the world, Arab and non-Arab, that can see how the Syrian people are being killed, while they merely look on.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed by Scud missile strikes. Aleppo, the city and the civilisation, is being destroyed systematically. ...

The Russian leadership especially bears moral and political responsibility for supplying the regime with weapons.

In protest of this shameful international stand, the coalition has decided to suspend its participation in the Rome conference for the Friends of Syria and decline the invitations to visit Russia and the United States. ...

We cannot visit any country until there is a clear decision on this savage, aggressive regime"

Britain and the U.S. issued statements asking the oppositioin to reconsider their decision, saying, "now is not the time to give up on talks."

These U.N. sponsored "talks" have been a farce since the day that U.N. and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan announced his six-point peace plan for Syria. (See "22-Mar-12 World View -- U.N. Security Council adopts farcical 'peace plan' for Syria") When Kofi Annan gave up and Lakhdar Brahimi took over as U.N. and Arab League envoy, the farce has only continued. The "peace plan" has actually been counterproductive. It provided a cover for Syria's president Bashar al-Assad to continue mass slaughter of thousands of innocent women and children as they slept in their beds; it provided cover for Iran and Russia to continue supplying billions of dollars of weapons to the al-Assad regime for use in slaughter of innocent women and children; and it provided cover for the U.S. and Britain and France and Turkey to do nothing, since doing something might harm the "peace process." AFP and Al-Jazeera

Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra gains in popularity and influence

The reason given by the West for not supply arms to the rebel opposition in Syria is the fear that the arms would fall into the arms of al-Qaeda linked jihadists in Syria, just as stores of weapons fell into the arms of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) when the war in Libya ended. One of the reasons given by Russia for its unwavering support of the Bashar al-Assad regime is the fear that if he steps down, then the country will be taken over by jihadists.

It increasingly appears to be the case that these reasons have backfired. The Syrian rebels had been hoping for Western aid for months after the conflict began, but by now have become disgusted with the West for allowing tens of thousands of innocent Syrians to be mercilessly slaughtered with no Western intervention. This has provided an opening for the jihadist militia Jabhat al-Nusra (Nusra Front) to become more popular in Syria. In the last year, al-Nusra has grown from a shadowy terrorist group to a highly disciplined fighting force gathering adherents among the Syrian population. According to one al-Nusra activist,

"After two years of killings and butchering and the entire world standing by and watching us, now we depend on God only."

Al-Nusra activists have become increasingly popular by providing social services and they're even distributing flour to bakeries. They're also becoming more radicalized, and more closely linked with al-Qaeda. BBC (1/17) and CNN

A new influx of heavy weapons reaches the rebels in southern Syria

For the first time, heavy weaponry, including anti-tank weapons and recoilless rifles, are reaching the secular opposition rebels in southern Syria, traveling across the Jordan border into Syria's Daraa province. The identity of the source of the weapons has not been disclosed, but it's believed that the source is either Saudi Arabia or Qatar.

The goal of these renewed deliveries, Arab and rebel officials said, is to reverse the unintended effect of an effort last summer to supply small arms and ammunition to rebel forces in the north, which was halted after it became clear that radical Islamists were emerging as the chief beneficiaries. According to one Arab official,

"The idea was to get heavier stuff, intensify supply and make sure it goes to the good guys. If you want to weaken al-Nusra, you do it not by withholding [weapons] but by boosting the other groups."

Washington Post

An Egyptian army comeback threatens a clash with Muslim Brotherhood

The army never liked the Muslim Brotherhood under presidents from Gamal Abdel Nasser to Hosni Mubarak, but the army has ostentatiously stayed out of the political battle between the Brotherhood and the secular and liberal opposition, saying that they'd intervene only if necessary to prevent chaos. Events of the past few months have exposed a growing fault line between the élite in Cairo versus the people in rural areas, especially in Port Said and other villages along the Suez Canal. This is in additional to the more obvious fault line between the Brotherhood versus the secularists and liberals. As chaos continues to grow in Egypt, along with the collapse of the economy, the army is standing in the way of president Mohamed Morsi's plans for a complete takeover of the country by the Brotherhood. This is leading to widespread rumors to the effect that the Brotherhood is forming a clandestine militia while setting up listening posts to monitor the army, to be ready to confront the army should it become necessary. Jerusalem Post

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