The Syrian rebellion, on Oct. 5, took over areas of Tel al-Hara, near Nawa, a major town twenty miles north of Deraa City, which is a strategic gateway to the road networks that keep the Assad regime alive in Deraa Province. The videos (1/2/3) showed FSA-branded rebels like Liwa al-Furqan and Jabhat Thuwar as-Suriya (the Syrian Revolutionaries’ Front) in control. Jabhat an-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, had an important presence, but it was not dominant. So this seemed like good news on its own terms.
As we approach the forty month mark for the Syrian uprising the situation is grimmer than it has ever been. Not just the casualties: more than 200,000 people dead. Not just the physical devastation and mass-displacement of more than a third of the country. But now in military terms the rebellion is on the defensive in a way it has not been since it erupted at the end of 2011, after more than six months of peaceful protests.
We might all hope to be vindicated so quickly. I wrote yesterday morning of the way the Iraqi government’s sectarianism and authoritarianism had created the space among Iraqi Sunni Arabs in which the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) could operate, and that I saw no way out of this, so one should expect escalating violence, chaos, and killing. By midday, Mosul, Iraq’s third city after Baghdad and Basra, had fallen to ISIS. Continue reading