Tag Archives: Southern Front

Syria’s Many Moderate Rebels

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on November 30, 2015

A version of this article was published at NOW Lebanon.

Rebels from the Southern Front in northwest Deraa, March 2015

Rebels from the Southern Front in northwest Deraa, March 2015

In early November, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee released a report challenging the British government’s proposal to extend airstrikes from Iraq into Syria against the Islamic State (IS). Among other things, the report asked for a proposed political path to ending the Syrian civil war, a necessary prerequisite to defeating IS. On Thursday, Prime Minister David Cameron released a response, part of which said:

Military action against ISIL will also relieve the pressure on the moderate opposition, whose survival is crucial for a successful transition to a more inclusive Syrian government. Syria has not been, and should not be, reduced to a choice between Assad or ISIL. Although the situation on the ground is complex, our assessment is that there are about 70,000 Syrian opposition fighters on the ground who do not belong to extremist groups.

This number has blown up into a major political row, with many Members of Parliament and pundits taking their personal unfamiliarity with Syria’s military landscape as evidence that it cannot be so. The Labour Opposition has made the number of non-extremist rebels a focal point of their challenge to the Prime Minister’s proposal for moving forward in Syria, and one of Cameron’s own Conservative MPs referred to the number as “magical”. The challenge to the number is part of a longer-term trend, where a narrative has become prevalent that there are no moderate opposition forces left in Syria. The corollary of this view is usually the argument that the West should side with the “secular” Assad regime as the “lesser evil” to put down a radical Islamist insurrection.

Sidestepping the ignorance that goes into believing a blatantly sectarian regime propped up by an international brigade of Shi’a jihadists is secular: What of this claim that there are no moderate rebels left? It isn’t true, as I recently made clear in a paper for The Henry Jackson Society. Continue reading

Obama Won’t Help Rescue Syria’s Revolution: He Has Given Syria To Iran

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on November 14, 2014

Bashar az-Zoubi

Bashar az-Zoubi

Reuters reports that since al-Qaeda in Syria has gravely weakened the nationalist rebels on the Northern Front, an effort is afoot to shift the focus for bolstering moderate insurrectionists to the south, namely Bashar az-Zoubi, his Liwa al-Yarmouk, and the wider “Southern Front”.
Continue reading

Are There Any Good Guys Left In Syria?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 30, 2014

3

The short answer is “yes”. The longer answer is, “It depends on how good you want,” and discovering the answer to that relies on having a strategic vision of what you want from Syria. Continue reading

A Tetchy Defence of a Bad Foreign Policy

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 7, 2014

4

A little over a week ago, President Obama was asked in the Philippines about his foreign policy. It was a rather complex question that asked for Obama’s “vision,” “doctrine,” and “guiding principle“—and also how he “answer[s] those critics who say they think the doctrine is weakness.” The President gave a 949-word answer. To say that it was defensive, disingenuous, and wrong-headed would be to say the least of it. Continue reading

Obama’s Training of Syrian Rebels: Another Exercise in Public-Relations

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 2, 2014

Bashar az-Zoubi, leader of Liwa al-Yarmouk, the biggest brigade in Deraa and one of the biggest on the Southern Front. He is one of the main people President Obama’s ostensible switch to focussing on the south of Syria is supposed to benefit.

At the beginning of last month, the first solid evidence was presented of Syrian insurgents being trained by the Central Intelligence Agency. Continue reading