Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 18, 2011

Has Anyone Seen Those Syrian "Deserters"?

"Western" media are pushing the tale of Syrian Army defectors attacking Syrian security forces. Note that the only sources for these tales are "activists" in London and elsewhere.

I do not doubt that there are attacks on Syrian forces. I sincerely doubt that these are done by army defectors. Notice that these attacks started as early as April, more than half a year ago, at a time when no "western" media, despite the public evidence, wrote of armed rebellion at all, just of "peaceful protesters". Only now are media reporting of attacks by armed groups but these reports are either fake or come without backing from any independent source:

Deserters from the Syrian Army reportedly carried out attacks against the offices of the Syrian ruling Baath party in northwestern Syria on Thursday, a day after they claimed an assault on an intelligence base that Russia, Syria’s closest ally, said was bringing the country closer to civil war.

The Syrian government did not mention either attack, which were reported by activists, citing the accounts of local residents, and their scale and effectiveness was not clear.

There has been not one bit of evidence that those who attack the Syrian forces are really army defectors. Any real army defectors would be likely to leave with heavier weapons and would be able to bring up a more organized challenges than isolated road ambushes and a few shots against official buildings.

I find it much more likely that the attacks, if they happened at all, were committed by Sunni Syrians loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood or to the exiled former Baath functionaries Abdul Halim Khaddam and Rifaat al-Assad and under the tutelage of Qatari or Jordanian special forces. This of course with U.S. and Israeli support.

It increases the chance for a successful rebellion but I still regard that chance as quite small.

Posted by b on November 18, 2011 at 4:08 UTC | Permalink


There was an interview with a captain from Homs who'd deserted, after 25 years military service.

A man from Homs, you note, and only one.

Posted by: Alexno | Nov 18 2011 11:45 utc | 1

Here's ABC Lateline's video and transcript report of Nov 17 with comment from The Usual Suspects (France, Qatar et al).
Pressure grows on Syria inside and out

The Lateline website hasn't been updated with info for the Nov 18 program yet, but there was a longish interview this evening with a Syrian expert who knew enough about the situation there to paint a very confusing picture of the competing components of the 'uprising'. He thinks Assad has more support than the 'rebels' but thinks Assad will eventually have to step down.
Eventually, a report similar to the one above, with transcript and video, will appear on the website.

(The Nov 17 story list is headed by "Obama: America here to stay in the Pacific" so if that's what you see then the page hasn't been updated.)

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Nov 18 2011 14:43 utc | 2

The Nov 18 Lateline Syria interview is now up.
Syrian violence heading towards prolonged conflict

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Nov 18 2011 14:54 utc | 3

In Oz, almost without exception, SBS & ABC News begin or conclude each Syria report containing 'rebel' (wobbly and fuzzy) cell-phone video with "the report couldn't be verified."
I never watch the news on commercial channels (7, 9, and 10) because when it's not puerile, trashy and inconsequential, it's insultingly partisan and feeble-minded - with a bit of theatrical 'sincerity' thrown in.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Nov 18 2011 15:17 utc | 4

Swiss slap sanctions on Iran's top diplomat

Posted by: Paul | Nov 18 2011 15:29 utc | 5

I agree with b. that the earlier reports of "deserters" attacking Syrian security forces were probably rebels armed by external agencies. However, the recent reports about attacks by the Free Syrian Army may be a different development. The FSA is based in Turkey, and would be operating under Turkish control.

I have written elsewhere recently about the increased role that Turkey may now be playing, and its likely fatal impact on the Assad regime.

Posted by: FB Ali | Nov 18 2011 15:58 utc | 6

General Ali,

Through the FLC blog I came across this Haaretz article

"Russian warships are due to arrive at Syrian territorial waters, a Syrian news agency said on Thursday, indicating that the move represented a clear message to the West that Moscow would resist any foreign intervention in the country's civil unrest."

This suggests (if the article is accurate) to me two things. First that the Russians view Syria as a vital interest. Second, that they themselves do not consider the situation to be hopeless for the regime as the Russians would not invest global standing and resources for the sake of sentiment.

As for the Assad regime, it may be that not too many Syrians actually "like" it, but I suspect many, possibly a majority, view it as the least bad option for the time being. The best analogy I can see right now is Algeria in the 1990s: a home grown Islamist insurgency that is ultimately suppressed by the government over a substantial period of time.

There are differences, of course. Namely Syria does not have Algeria's oil wealth. The Algerian government had the support of the west, rather than its opposition. OTOH, Algeria had just annulled an election and the Islamists had won, thus giving it even less legitimacy than the Syrian government. The non-Sunni 25% of Syria will likely back the regime till the end.

My guess (and it's just a guess) is that Turkey will huff and puff and may provide some covert backing to the Syrian insurgents and might even mobilize its army in a show of force. But it will never invade Syria. I believe the Syrians will call any bluff that Turkey might invade.

Posted by: Lysander | Nov 18 2011 20:42 utc | 7


I generally agree with your assessment. As I said on SST, I also think Assad could go on for a long time if he just had the (partly armed) protest movement to deal with. I am not so sure what the reaction of Sunni generals and businessmen would be if Turkey really started piling on the pressure (I agree it is unlikely to invade). As Syria's biggest trading partner, Turkey has a lot of economic leverage.

Posted by: FB Ali | Nov 18 2011 21:39 utc | 8


Thanks so much for sharing your insights. It is very appreciated and unique.

Posted by: lysander | Nov 18 2011 22:48 utc | 9

Yes, I've seen these "Syrian" deserters. They produced half a dozen of videos of terrorist attacks in Syria. NATO member Turkey is proud to make the communications of the "Free Syrian Army." A video from Turkey has even shown three faces. The same faces then turned up being involved in terrorist attacks near Homs.

From what I see I would estimate the strength of the "Free Syrian Army" about ten to twenty men in Syria. But they have a lot more of radical wahhabis in Lebanese Tripoli wiling to fight and die with them.

Many of them are armed with American M16 rifles, what caused Sappho to call them "Feltman's militia":

Posted by: Bandolero | Nov 18 2011 23:25 utc | 10

Alleged to be in Homs - rebels attacking troops with an RPG - lots of automatic gun fire: video

Posted by: b | Nov 19 2011 12:20 utc | 11

Russian warships enter Syrian water

Posted by: nikon | Nov 19 2011 17:30 utc | 12

Russia will not tolerate Turkish influence on its doorstep

Posted by: nikon | Nov 19 2011 17:39 utc | 13

@nikon - Russian warships arrive in Tartus about once a month or so. It is nothing unusual at all and has likely nothing to do with the current situation - for example - Sep 29: ASW Ship Severomorsk Visits Syrian Port Tartus

Posted by: b | Nov 19 2011 18:12 utc | 14

I think a point that has not been much mentioned is that the government forces, although they've shot with light weapons, don't seem to have used heavy weapons.

All the videos I've seen, the buildings remain standing, with the demonstrators in front.

Wouldn't the tanks, if firing as supposed, demolish a lot of buildings?

Posted by: alexno | Nov 19 2011 22:29 utc | 15

The best story I heard recently was on the BBC yesterday morning, when the lady accused the Syrian government of taking the organs of rebels for transplants. She must have learnt that from Israel, where the same story is current.

Posted by: alexno | Nov 19 2011 22:36 utc | 16

The NATO missle shield in Turkey is also aimed at Russia.

Posted by: nikon | Nov 19 2011 22:52 utc | 17

NATO missile shield in Turkey poses actual threat to Russia,

Posted by: nikon | Nov 19 2011 23:52 utc | 18

Normally I am just a lurker:

While I don't agree with the Erdogan government's going along 100% with US wishes on Syria, some postings here are a bit naive, to say the least.

"Russia will not tolerate Turkish influence on its doorstep"

Syria is on Turkey's doorstep, and a bit farther away from Russia :-)
Turkey has influence on Russia's doorstep, and vice versa. Turkey should use its influence wisely, and so should Russia.

The missile shield poses a threat to Russia the same way Iranian anti-missile systems pose a threat to the US. It constrains its freedom to launch a surprise attack, which may not be such a bad thing, in both cases.

Posted by: kodlu | Nov 20 2011 23:09 utc | 19

Russia Sends Warships to Syrian Waters to Stem Intervention

An anonymous Syrian official agreed "in principle" to an intervention by the Arab League to send hundreds of observers
by John Glaser, November 18, 2011

Russian warships are on route to Syrian territorial waters in a move that sends a clear message from Moscow that they would not allow any foreign intervention into Syria’s civil unrest.

Syria’s President Bashar al Assad, a close ally of Russia’s, has been violently cracking down on mass Syrian protests against his rule. Over 3,000 citizens have been killed by security forces, according to rights groups, and some soldiers have begun to defect, launching small operations against Assad’s forces.

Russia claims Syria’s trouble is a civil war and advocates against foreign intervention, despite it’s own interventions in the form of economic aid and diplomatic bolstering of Assad’s regime.

NATO spokespeople have so far denied any intention to intervene in Syria.

On Friday, though, a Syrian official said Damascus has agreed “in principle” to allow an Arab League observer mission into the country after the Arab League proposed sending hundreds of observers to help end the bloodshed, for which they suspended Syria earlier this week. Still, the Assad regime is likely to continue resisting intervention on Syrian soil.

Posted by: Uncle | Nov 21 2011 7:21 utc | 20

I've just heard a field report from BBC journalist John Simpson about the Free Syrian Army in Turkey.

He interviewed the chief, who is also called Asad. He is the one from Homs, I think. Simpson said that there are about 100 of them.

That sounds about right.

As they say, 'nuff said.

Posted by: alexno | Nov 24 2011 17:41 utc | 21

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