[Marxism] CSM: Syrian opposition attempting to retake Qusayr
clayclai at gmail.com
Wed Jan 22 17:15:29 MST 2014
Far from Syria peace talks, rebels focus on gaining ground
> /A rebel victory in the strategic town of Qusayr would challenge the
> regime's narrative of a failing, divided opposition. The rebels'
> effort appears timed to gain clout in negotiations.//
> By Nicholas Blanford
> <http://www.csmonitor.com/About/Staff/Nicholas-Blanford>, Correspondent /
> January 22, 2014
> Hermel, Lebanon
> Syrian rebels are using Lebanese territory to launch a campaign to
> recapture the Syrian town of Qusayr, seven months after losing it to
> the Syrian Army and Hezbollah
> Their offensive to retake the town is a stark contrast to the state of
> the rebel forces elsewhere in the country, where infighting has
> virtually frozen progress on the battlefield.
> The timing appears geared to the Geneva II peace conference that began
> today in the Swiss city of Montreux
> Both the regime and rebels have attempted to seize ground in the weeks
> ahead of the conference to be in a more advantageous position if
> negotiations lead to cease-fire.
> Rebels say they have seized half of Jussiyah, a small town that lies
> on Lebanon <http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Lebanon>'s northern
> border with Syria <http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Syria>, which
> they will use as a toehold for a push on Qusayr, five miles to the north.
> "When we capture the last Army position in Jussiyah, the village will
> be with us," says Abu Ahmad, a Lebanese from the Sunni town of Arsal
> who fights with Syrian rebels.
> The campaign is partly intended to ease pressure on the rebels in the
> vicinity of Qalamoun, a strategic area to the south, adjacent to the
> Lebanese border, that has been under attack by the Syrian Army and
> Hezbollah since mid-November
> A battle around Qusayr would divert scarce regime resources from other
> battlefronts, including that one.
> Seizing Qusayr would give rebels access to the highway linking Homs
> <http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Homs> and Damascus
> <http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Damascus+%28Syria%29> to the
> coastal town of Tartous, a regime stronghold and crucial
> port, blocking the regime's effort to establish full control over the
> vital corridor. It could also complicate ongoing efforts to transport
> Syria's chemical weapons arsenal
> <http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2013/1209/Syrian-army-captures-highway-clearing-path-for-chemical-weapons-removal> from
> Damascus to the port city of Latakia.
> The Assad regime's initial progress in Qalamoun, between Damascus and
> Homs, was swift. The military drove rebels from the towns of Qarah,
> Deir Attiyah, and Nabk, which lie on the Damascus-Homs highway, in
> less than three weeks. Since then, the campaign has faltered, partly
> because of bad weather in December, partly because of the rugged
> nature of the terrain, which suits the rebels, and partly due to the
> diversion of troops to other fronts, according to rebel and diplomatic
> sources in Beirut.
> Furthermore, rebel sources in Arsal say that fresh funding from Saudi
> Arabia has reached Qalamoun, allowing rebels to bolster their defenses
> with purchases of weapons, ammunition, and other equipment. The source
> of much of the rebels' weaponry is the Syrian Army itself -- the
> temptations of hard cash trump the loyalties of some officers. The
> seizure of Syrian Army ammunition depots also is another profitable
> source of armaments.
> Rebels in Lebanon's northern Bekaa Valley told the Monitor in early
> October that plans were being made for a counter-attack against Qusayr
> using fighters then deployed in the Qalamoun area. It was put on hold
> in November when the regime launched its offensive against Qalamoun.
> But in an indication of rebel strength and confidence in Qalamoun, the
> attack on Qusayr began around 10 days ago with an attempt to recapture
> Jussiyah on the Lebanon-Syria border.
> Open for business
> Qusayr lies some 30 miles north of Qalamoun and is separated by a
> wedge of barren mountainous terrain in northeast Lebanon. Syrian Army
> troops control the ground between the two towns on the Syrian side of
> the border. To bypass the Syrian Army, rebel fighters slip across the
> border into Lebanon and move north through the deserted mountainous
> landscape, recrossing to reach the Qusayr area.
> Rebel fighters say that the stone tracks that criss-cross the border
> traditionally used for smuggling, remain open to traffic, even though
> sealing the frontier was a major goal of the regime's offensive in
> "We have many units in the mountains and it's impossible for Hezbollah
> to enter the area and mount ambushes on the border crossings. The
> northern mountain chain belongs to us alone," says Abu Omar, an Arsal
> resident who is a logistical coordinator with Syrian rebel groups in
> Qalamoun. Abu Omar says he regularly crosses the border to pick up
> casualties in Qalamoun, reaching as far into Syria as Yabroud, close
> to the embattled highway.
> "The crossings are all open. Even diesel fuel smuggling has started
> again," he says.
> A nexus of support has been Arsal, a town in the northern Bekaa Valley
> about seven miles west of the border with Syria. An influx of nearly
> 40,000 refugees, most of them from Homs, Qalamoun, and Qusayr, has
> nearly doubled Arsal's population in the past three years.
> The Lebanese Army mans checkpoints around Arsal but rarely ventures
> into the desolate mountains to the north and east, where rebel units
> are based. A new Army position close to the border at Jussiyah and on
> the shoulder of the mountains has come under mortar and rocket fire at
> least 19 times, according to a source close to the Lebanese army,
> adding that it was unclear who was responsible.
> "We consider that whole range of mountains east and north of Arsal as
> part of the Syrian war, even though it is Lebanese territory," the
> source said.
> Abu Omar says that the rebels leading the attack against Jusiyah are
> the same groups driven from Qusayr in early June and that their
> opponents in Jussiyah are Hezbollah fighters.
> "We are bringing Konkurs across the mountains from Qalamoun to use
> against the regime in Jussiyah," says Abu Ahmad, referring to Russian
> AT-5 anti-tank missiles of which hundreds have been seized during
> rebel raids against Syrian army depots in the past six months.
> The scale of the fighting was evident Monday in Qasr, a Shiite town on
> Lebanon's northern border, six miles west of Jussiyah. The regular
> crump of distant artillery explosions broke the still afternoon air.
> Somewhere in the brilliant blue sky above the eastern edge of Qasr
> came the whine of a reconnaissance drone. Hezbollah operates several
> types of drone and reportedly has deployed them in Syrian battle
> fronts. The rebels also have used small short-range drones, according
> to diplomatic sources.
> "The fighting across the border is unbelievable. Our boys [Hezbollah]
> are killing them [the rebels] like flies but they keep on coming,"
> says Abu Ali, a supporter of the Shiite party and local businessman
> whose home is a few hundred yards from the border.
> A year ago, the residents of Qasr were on the frontline of a struggle
> between the Assad regime and rebel forces for control of Qusayr and
> the surrounding villages. Since the Syrian Army's seizure of Qusayr
> on June 5, the calm in Qasr has only been broken by the occasional
> rocket attack fired by rebels in the mountains north of Arsal.
> But Abu Ali says the intensity of the renewed fighting in the Qusayr
> pocket has spurred him to move out of his home and relocate to the
> nearby town of Hermel.
> "It's too dangerous to live there now. We are afraid they [the rebels]
> may come across the border," he says. "Anyone living near the border
> doesn't leave home without a gun."
Clay Claiborne, Owner
Cosmos Engineering Co. <http://CosmosEng.com/>
116 Rose Ave, Ste. 9
Venice Beach, CA 90291
(323) 219-6507 cell
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