Friday, December 19, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 28--section 2: January to December 2012 Period

A few weeks after armed Syrian rebel groups gained control of Aleppo, Syria on July 18, 2012, a Reuters article by Mark Hosenball, titled “Exclusive: Obama authorizes secret U.S. support for Syrian rebels”, revealed on Aug. 1, 2012 some more details about the U.S. government’s covert and overt support for the armed insurgency in Syria:

“President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, U.S. sources familiar with the matter said.

“Obama's order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence `finding,’ broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad…Precisely when Obama signed the secret intelligence authorization, an action not previously reported, could not be determined…A U.S. government source acknowledged that under provisions of the presidential finding, the United States was collaborating with a secret command center operated by Turkey and its allies.

“Last week, Reuters reported that, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey had established a secret base near the Syrian border to help direct vital military and communications support to Assad's opponents.

“This `nerve center’ is in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, a U.S. air base where U.S. military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence….Turkish authorities are said by current and former U.S. government officials to be increasingly involved in providing Syrian rebels with training and possibly equipment.

“European government sources said wealthy families in Saudi Arabia and Qatar were providing significant financing to the rebels…Current and former U.S. and European officials previously said that weapons supplies, which were being organized and financed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, were largely limited to guns and a limited number of anti-tank weapons, such as bazookas….Separately from the president's secret order, the Obama administration has stated publicly that it is providing some backing for Assad's opponents….Recent news reports from the region have suggested that the influence and numbers of Islamist militants, some of them connected to al Qaeda or its affiliates, have been growing among Assad's opponents…”

According to a 2013 Amnesty International human rights group report, in Syria during 2012, “government forces…carried out indiscriminate attacks on residential areas using aircraft, artillery shells, mortars, incendiary weapons and cluster bombs” and “together with their support militias, they arrested thousands of people.” In addition, “at least 550 were reported to have died in custody, many after torture,” others were extrajudicially executed” and “security forces’ snipers continued to shoot peaceful anti-government demonstrators and people attending public funerals.”

But the same 2013 Amnesty International report also noted that in Syria during 2012, the “armed groups fighting against the government also committed gross abuses, including war crimes,” “tortured and/or summarily killed government soldiers and militia members after taking them prisoner and carried out indiscriminate bombings that killed or injured civilians.”

The 2013 Amnesty International report described how the lives of many people in Syria were impacted by the continued foreign government-backed armed revolt against Assad’s Baath regime in 2012:

“…Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes; the UN estimated that over 2 million people were internally displaced and living under conditions of extreme hardship within Syria, and that since the beginning of the conflict almost 600,000 had fled as refugees to neighboring countries, where conditions were often harsh….A bomb attack in the capital Damascus on 18 July, for which the Free Syrian Army [FSA] claimed responsibility, killed the Defense Minister and his deputy, the Assistant Vice-President and the Head of the National Security Bureau. Two days later, armed opposition groups launched an offensive that spread the armed conflict to Aleppo, Damascus and elsewhere….

“Armed groups fighting against the government, including some linked to the FSA, …carried out suicide and other bomb attacks, and at times fired imprecise weapons such as artillery and mortars in densely populated neighborhoods, used inherently indiscriminate weapons such as anti-personnel landmines, and prepared or stored munitions and explosives in residential buildings, endangering civilian occupants…By the end of the year, armed opposition groups were reported to be increasingly threatening and attacking minority communities perceived to be pro-government…

“Government forces and militias routinely used lethal and other excessive force to quell peaceful protests calling for the `fall of the regime’. Hundreds of people, including children and bystanders, who posed no threat to the security forces or others, were killed or wounded by government snipers during protests and public funerals of “martyrs”. ..At least 550 people, including children, were reported to have died in custody, most apparently as a result of torture or other ill-treatment. Many of those who died were suspected government opponents…

“Government forces launched frequent, indiscriminate air strikes against opposition-controlled areas, prompting almost all residents of these areas to flee. Others, particularly those from minority groups, also fled their homes fearing attacks from armed opposition groups. Many camped in the countryside or sought refuge in caves; others went to live with relatives or left the country. Refugees from elsewhere resident in Syria, including Palestinian refugees, faced particular difficulties in accessing safety…By the end of the year, thousands of people were living in camps beside the border with Turkey in dire conditions…”

But the 2013 Amnesty International Report also noted that in 2012, “in February, the government held a referendum on a new Constitution that ended the Baath party’s long monopoly on power, but fell short of opposition demands for sweeping political reforms,” “parliamentary elections were held 90 days later,” and Assad’s Baath regime “announced general amnesties in January and October” of 2012.

(end of section 2 of part 28)

No comments: