Syria Crisis: The Fire Is Getting Closer
AFTER a period of relative stalemate, the rebels seeking to topple President Bashar Assad and his regime have, in the past month, made further gains across the board. They have been steadily winning territory, including on the outskirts of Damascus, the capital. The Syrian National Coalition, the opposition umbrella group that got together under watchful American eyes in Qatar in mid-November to replace the ailing Syrian National Council, has been given a hefty diplomatic boost in terms of recognition. Perhaps most important, rebel politicians are trying harder than ever to gain influence, if not direct control, over the myriad fighting factions. And Mr Assad is showing increasing signs of desperation, bombing a hostile Palestinian district on the edge of Damascus and firing SCUD missiles at towns and districts held by the rebels near Aleppo, Syria’s second city, half of which is in rebel hands.
On December 12th ministers from more than 100 governments, meeting in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh, recognised the coalition as the Syrian people’s legitimate representative. This will help them get more cash and diplomatic clout.
Meanwhile the governments of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which, unlike their Western counterparts, have backed the rebels with guns, have been fashioning rebel groups into a new body, the Supreme Military Council, through which arms can more efficiently be funnelled. The 30-man body includes some of Syria’s most powerful commanders: Abu Issa of Saqour al-Sham, a group that has done well in the north-west; Abdulkader Saleh of Liwa al-Tawheed in Aleppo; and Abu Azzam of Farouq al-Shamal, which has been effective near Homs, Syria’s third city. “Our council will hopefully be the nucleus of a new defence ministry for any transitional government formed by the Syrian National Coalition,” says a man from Saqour al-Sham