Something new is happening in Syria. There are two recent reports, one in Italian from il Foglio, my favorite daily newspaper, and the other in English at a web site called EA Worldview, which is politically obnoxious but very informative, especially concerning Iran. They both say the same thing: that the Free Syrian Army, which was formed fairly early in the revolt against Assad’s regime, is now getting some very good weapons. This accounts for its recent military successes, bringing it inside the Damascus gates.
Both base their analyses on the research of Elliot Higgins, a British expert who tracks the movement of weaponry in the region. Higgins says the new weapons, and ammunition for them, are coming from the old Yugoslavia. Both make the point that whereas Western countries, including the United States, are very concerned about radical jihadis among opposition forces, the FSA is much more attractive, being more “secular,” more moderate, and, at least at the outset, pro-Western. Il Foglio‘s excellent reporter on the scene, Daniele Raineri, makes another important point: by arming the FSA with weapons that can’t be obtained in the neighborhood, whoever is organizing the support gains a great deal of control, since the “whoever” also controls the flow of ammunition. And he notes that these new weapons are coming in to Syria from the south–with a major Jordanian role–rather than from the north, via Iraq and Turkey, which was the traditional route.
Neither is confident of knowing the deus ex machina of this tactical maneuver, but both know it could be very important. Is it, at long last, an American operation? Has Obama yielded to the advice of his senior military and foreign policy advisers, and–in partnership with, say, the Brits, the French, and the Jordanians–put some teeth in his thus-far empty cry “Assad must go”? Or is it, as no doubt some of the Islamists must suspect, a joint Israeli-Jordanian operation?
I don’t know. Kerry is apparently whispering to some of the opposition that “help is on the way,” which could mean almost anything. But whatever is going on should greatly concern the Iranians and their killers in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. For starters, the FSA has used some of their new toys to attack Hezbollah, in both Syria and Lebanon, which is tantamount to an attack on Iran itself.
I’m surprised that these attacks on Hezbollah haven’t received more attention, because they clearly show that the Syrian war has metastasized. In the past, the fighting spilled over across the Turkish border, but that seems to have stopped. The FSA warned Iran and Hezbollah that they were going to act, and now they have.
Meanwhile, the Kurdish elephant is breaking a lot of glasses and dishes, and again we don’t hear a lot about it. But if you’re watching Iran, you will have noticed some significant casualties on the battlefields of the region. Specifically, top Revolutionary Guards commanders are being killed. The Washington Post reported one of them, General Tabatabai, and noted that two other senior officers have been killed in the same area.
A more specialized publication, Iran Military News, notes mounting attacks in Balouchi areas in the southeast. Oddly, neither the WaPo nor the military publication mentions the sad assassination of three outstanding female Kurdish leaders in Paris (read a PJ Media report here) in early January, which some analysts believe was organized by Iranian intelligence. It would not be surprising if the assassinations in Iranian Kurdistan were acts of revenge.
Meanwhile, the regime has been pounding its chest, making the usual mess of its missions at home and abroad, and inventing tall tales for those who carefully parse every bit of official manure in the hope of finding a diplomatic pony somewhere in the pile. In a spectacular snafu, the regime launched a new oil platform, which promptly sank into the Gulf. Here’s the video. Eager to demonstrate military power and technological prowess, the mullahs trotted out one fairy tale after another, falsely claiming to have developed a new fighter plane, to have sent a chimpanzee into orbit, and screwing up various efforts to kill Westerners all over the place.
We’re dealing with a hollow regime. The only thing it does effectively is torture and kill, and if the West had the slightest inclination to bring down the Islamic Republic, it could be accomplished without firing a shot or dropping a bomb; it would suffice to support the internal opposition.
But then, it would most likely have sufficed in Syria, and so far as I know, we have yet to lift a finger to bring down the Assad tyranny. What a shameful legacy.