Who are the Syrian rebels: The Genesis of the armed struggle in Syria

KhiyanaPlenty has been written about the armed struggle in Syria, but on left-wing and alternative media sources much of it has been laden with conspiracy theories, or is merely recycled Assad regime propaganda. In this article, soon to be published as part of a collection about the Syrian Revolution, Mark Boothroyd explores the roots of the armed struggle, and what drove the rebellion to the situation it finds itself in today.

Khiyana: The Unmaking of the Syrian Revolution seeks to uproot the false information, reactionary “anti-imperialist” dogma, slurs and slanders which have characterised much of the analysis of the revolt in Syria. It will contain articles by Idrees Ahmed, Budour Hassan, Sam Charles Hamad, Leila Al-Shami, Javaad Alipoor, Louis Proyect, and Michael Karadjis.

Who are the Syrian Rebels: The Genesis of the Armed Struggle in Syria

With the ongoing offensive in Syria by the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian backers, there has been a renewed interest in Syria’s armed opposition. Despite the figure of 70,000 “moderate” armed rebels being mentioned in the media and in parliament, much of the coverage still talks about Al-Qaeda and ISIS, despite these being relatively minor forces in the armed conflict between the rebels and the regime.

Many commentators like Independent columnist Robert Fisk1, leading Stop The War Coalition (StWC) officer John Rees, and Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey, have mocked or denied the existence of moderate opposition forces. Criticisms that the rebels are not moderates2, that they are a “rump”3 with no support, or that they are Al-Qaeda or Turkish fascists4 have all emerged. Parts of the left and anti-war movement are complicit in creating a narrative that the opposition are entirely Al-Qaeda or ISIS, obscuring the reality that the overwhelming majority of Syrian rebels remain nationalist, of a democratic, secular or Islamic orientation.

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Can the revolution in Syria survive an imperial carve up?

by Mark Boothroyd

The situation facing the Assad regime is dire. Having lost almost every major battle it has fought with the armed rebels for over a year now, it is facing crises on every front. Since March it has lost control of the entire province of Idlib to the Jaysh Al-Fatah coalition. In Aleppo, the Fatah Halab coalition are on the offensive and gradually liberating districts of the city from the regime, while last month the regime’s only ground supply route to the city was temporarily severed by rebels. In the south the Southern Front continues to pressure the regime around Daraa, and is advancing in Quneitra province, while rebels in Lattakia continue to mount incursions into the regime loyalist province.

Rebel advances in Idlib province May 2014 – May 2015 Credit: Archicivilians
Rebel advances in Daraa province May 2014 – May 2015 Credit: Archicivilians

Assad is facing a manpower shortage as tens of thousands of Syrians flee regime held areas to escape conscription and deteriorating living conditions. Refugees who left Syria recently describe being unable to live, as regular electricity and water cuts, and the rising price of food and rents makes the situation unbearable.

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