What is the policy for helping to forge Syrian Security?
[By Lara Keller, last updated 13th May 2017]
[Important resource: “The Free Syrian Army: A decentralized insurgent brand” by Charles R Lister, Nov 2016, https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/iwr_20161123_free_syrian_army1.pdf ]
[Note that all leaps of faith or ………. are my fault, LK]
This article is an expansion on the proposal for a policy to support Syrian Security, described in the summary image above. An important source for this is Charles R Lister’s “The Free Syrian Army: A decentralized insurgent brand” (Nov 2016), the ideas expressed below are a bit more radical.
Summary Image Point 1: Syrian security belongs to the Syrian people, not the Assad regime who have abused the state for 47 years.
1. Security must be handed over from the Assad regime to an organisation that represents all the Syrian people. The current regime has grossly misused security forces since 1970 to brutally repress any opposition.
Summary Image Point 2: A fully democratically overseen People’s Syrian Army needs to be enabled from revived FSA. Lack of advanced weaponry and action against regime war crimes, has created a fragmented disillusioned armed mainstream opposition. Resulting vacuum exploited by extremists.
2. The People’s Syrian Army (PSA) will be formed from a revived Free Syrian Army. Lack of early Western support and divisive support from regional powers, has led to a decentralised FSA that has fallen far below its potential. This armed opposition vacuum has partly been filled by mainstream Islamist groups, and also by terrorist extremist Islamist groups.
2.1 The current FSA has no confidence in US and other Western governments. This can be rapidly reversed by a large scale scheme to put the FSA back in the hands of a central command. The authority of this command must be backed up by its power to channels extensive and appropriately advanced weapons and support services to FSA units. These weapons and support services must be made available by the West, in exchange for progressing agreed plans.
2.2 Weapons are needed which counter advanced military hardware being used to oppress the Syrian People. This means anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. To prevent proliferation weapons should be provided to vetted trained individuals, and electronic counter measures installed to kill control chips if time or location constraints are breached. To counter the use of artillery by the regime, similar heavy weaponry needs to be supplied to the FSA.
2.3 The idea that Russia will escalate the conflict as a result of the West adequately arming the Syrian Opposition is unlikely. The Russian and Assad regime forces have been given the illusion of enormous strength because the FSA has not been equipped adequately to be able to give a strong opposing response. This one sided conflict has given Putin’s Russian regime the gift of the illusion of great military power. The economy of Russia is small, and it is only sustaining the effort to support Assad with covert Chinese financial support. Putin will seek to defend his regime against humiliation when challenged. The long term goal in Syria, is for Putin to represent himself as the natural and utterly ruthless ally of all internally threatened dictatorships in this post Cold-War world. Struggling in Syria will undermine this.
2.4 The PSA can only be formed and sustained if it is under strict Syrian democratic oversight, misuse of unaccountable military force is the root of all authoritarian government. There must be local elections to essential parts of PSA commands by people who live in the area that the PSA unit protects. This is of cause already done, but needs to be as universal as possible. Physical security must come packaged with all other types of civilian security, which includes food, judicial system, medical help and shelter. The PSA must have close links to the civilian administration to provide an authoritative alternative to extremist groups who pretend to offer a full range of military and civilian security. Locally elected representatives must then create a national council to oversee the running of the PSA.
2.5 This scheme must be backed up by a large scale public information campaign in the West, that shifts Western public opinion to understanding that the solution is empowering Syrians. That the existence of extreme Islamist terrorism is a product of elitist misrule in the MENA region. Also understanding that a progressive solution of the Syrian Crisis has positive effects regionally and globally.
Summary Image Point 3: Peace negotiations are required to incorporate all armed groups and individuals not guilty of major war crimes into PSA, including large sections of Syrian Government Forces. PSA must take over all Syrian security by negotiation if possible otherwise force. It must expel foreign fighters, defeat extremists and arrest serious war criminals.
3. This new People’s Syrian Army (PSA) needs to take over security of liberated and regime held areas. Peace negotiations are needed to incorporate as many as possible opposition mainstream Islamist groups, defectors from extremist Islamist groups, opposition Syrian Kurdish groups and Syrian Government Forces not guilty of major war crimes. All sieges must be lifted immediately on rebel and (the few) regime areas.
3.1 The PSA must take over all regime facilities including detention facilities and prisoners. So called regime “security forces” need to be disbanded, their bases closed, and individuals guilty of major war crimes identified and arrested. The PSA will immediately expel all foreign fighters including the numerous foreign pro-regime Shia militias, apart from detaining those guilty of serious war crimes.
3.2 The PSA must take over the fight against remaining extremist Islamist groups within Syria. All aerial bombing of civilian areas to achieve this must stop.
Summary Image Point 4: West must impose No-Bomb-Zone over Syria, where major war crimes committed by the Assad regime, or its Russian or Shia Extremist allies, are deterred by significant destruction of Assad regime assets.
4. The use of indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombing of civilian areas by the Assad regime and its Russian allies is a war crime. The West needs to impose a No-Bomb-Zone over Syria, where major war crimes committed by the Assad regime or its Russian allies, means another significant number of important Assad regime assets are destroyed by missile strikes.
4.1 To avoid Russian casualties the West must warn them of the general areas (from which specific locations will be chosen) that a strike will take place, so that personnel can be removed.
4.2 The West needs to publicly acknowledge the role of PSA as the legitimate body fighting to provide security to the people of Syria so the creation of a genuinely representative government can happen. The immediate aim of this Syrian government will be to provide, under Syrian democratic supervision, security and stability to the Syrian people. When this has been achieved dignity, equality and, justice issues requiring balanced considered judgement can and must be performed. The PSA will be an essential part of this government administration, by lowering tensions through providing security and stability.
5. West must impose a physical arms blockade on the supply of weapons to the Assad Regime+Allies, and other extremist groups in Syria. Sanctions alone are not enough.
5.1 China, Russia and Iran routinely ignore internationally agreed sanction agreements. Russia and Iran airlift arms into Syria. Russian ships transport heavier military items by sea to the Syrian port of Tartus. These weapons are being used by the Assad regime and its allies to commit war crimes.