[Marxism] Syrians March to Protest US Airstrikes Strategy

Michael Karadjis mkaradjis at gmail.com
Mon Sep 29 07:29:47 MDT 2014

Syrians March to Protest US Airstrikes Strategy
Rebels Protest Civilian Deaths and Sparing of Assad Regime
Sam Dagher and
Maria Abi-Habib
Sept. 26, 2014 7:26 p.m. ET

Youths protest against U.S. airstrikes in Islamic State's de facto 
capital of Raqqa on Friday. Reuters
Demonstrations against the U.S. and its Arab allies and those 
collaborating with them swept through rebel-held areas in Syria on 
Anger over the U.S. decision to target the militant Nusra Front in its 
air campaign against Islamic State—and to spare the regime of Bashar 
al-Assad and its allies—spurred protests after Friday prayers, a rebel 
practice that has dwindled since the peaceful uprising against Mr. Assad 
in March 2011 gradually gave way to a brutal civil war. Protests erupted 
in more than 40 towns and villages across Syria.
One of the largest was held in the city of Maaret al-Numan in northern 
Idlib province, which is home to a mix of secular and Islamist rebels 
that cooperate with al-Qaeda-linked groups like Nusra and others 
classified as terrorist organizations by the U.S.
"Down with America!" shouted hundreds of men streaming through the 
streets of the city, according to video clips posted by activists. "With 
our soul and blood we defend you, Nusra!"
In the town of Qaalet al-Madeeq in neighboring Hama province, protesters 
burned a T-shirt emblazoned with an image of President Barack Obama.
Others held up posters assailing what they saw as U.S. inaction and 
silence toward the crimes committed by the Assad regime and its 
Iran-backed allies such as Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, which has 
thousands of fighters in Syria battling on the side of the regime. Most 
of those fighting against the regime are Sunni.
"Ok, what about Hezbollah militia?" read a sign held by teenage boy. 
Others shamed Arab pilots by name for taking part in the U.S.-led 
In the town of Houla, northwest of the central city of Homs, protesters 
included fighters praised Islamic State and condemned Saudi Arabia's 
King Abdullah for taking part in the U.S. campaign.
"People want the Islamic caliphate," they chanted.
In nearby Talbiseh, protesters burned a U.S. flag.
"Assad, Obama and the coalition are enemies of God," they chanted. They 
called the Western-backed Syrian Opposition Coalition and the rebel 
groups that expressed their support for the U.S.-led airstrikes 
An organizer of the Talbiseh protests, Firas al-Homsi, said the protests 
would continue "to show the whole world that the United States is the 
main protector of the Assad regime."
Protests were also held in cities and towns regularly bombarded by the 
regime where the Nusra Front has no known presence. like parts of the 
countryside around the northern city of Aleppo or the southern province 
of Deraa adjacent to the Jordanian border.
"We are against America and what it did, it struck the Nusra Front and 
the civilians instead of ISIS and the regime," said one man at protest 
in the town of Atareb, west of the city of Aleppo.
A former fighter of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army who said he had 
lost his leg battling against the Assad regime led the protest in 
"Why strike Nusra? Nusra has never directed their weapons against the 
people, but protected us against the regime," said Baraa al Halabi in 
the Aleppo neighborhood of Bustan al Qasr. "The regime has [support 
from] Hezbollah and those Iraqi militant fighters, and there are no 
strikes on them…When Assad was killing and torturing us, it was groups 
like Nusra that defended our dignity."
Mr. Halabi said he didn't agree with Nusra's radical ideology but 
worried that the international strikes would aid the regime at the FSA's 
On Friday regime warplanes and helicopters bombed rebel-held areas in 
the center, north and south of the country, with one attack using barrel 
bombs dropped from a helicopter killing nine people including women and 
children in an Aleppo market, according to the monitoring group the 
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Regime jets also attacked rebel position on Friday in Idlib province. In 
the same region, the U.S. said it bombed the al-Qaeda-linked group 
Khorasan on Tuesday, feeding local perceptions that attacks were 
coordinated between the U.S. and the Assad regime. The U.S. denies any 
such coordination.
Several local activists in the Aleppo and Idlib countrysides interviewed 
via Skype said the U.S. struck a base and a training camp in an area 
called al-Muhandeseen west of Aleppo city on the border with Idlib 
They said a Nusra Front leader who goes by the pseudonym Abu Youssef 
al-Turki, a Turkish national who previously fought in Afghanistan, was 
among those killed. Mr. al-Turki was praised by jihadists on social 
media as one of the "best snipers in the Middle East." Activists said he 
had trained dozens of local snipers.
The U.S. also hit four structures in a poultry factory in Kfar Daryan in 
neighboring Idlib province that had been used by the Nusra Front as a 
weapons depot and command center. They said an adjacent two-story 
structure occupied by civilians displaced by the conflict was also 
demolished during the same airstrikes.
They said 20 and possibly up to 50 Nusra Front fighters as well as at 
least 12 civilians from two families were among those killed in Kfar 
On Friday residents of Kfar Daryan held a silent protest at the wreckage 
of the building destroyed by Tuesday's airstrikes.
"The international alliance kills civilians," read one of the placards 
they held up.
Thousands of civilians and rebels protested against the strikes across 
Syria Friday, raising anti-American banners, a departure from when 
activists pleaded for international intervention in the early days of 
the revolution. Leading one protest in Aleppo was fighter from the 
U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army, hobbling on crutches, one leg amputated in 
wounds sustained in battle.
For the first time in many months, Syrians appeared united in a common 
cause after three years of bloodshed in a revolution turned civil war.
"The protests were large—the largest I've seen in a long time. It took 
me back to the first months of the revolution," said Mr. Halabi in 
On Tuesday, nearly a dozen of the FSA's most powerful groups signed a 
declaration denouncing the strikes, demanding they target the Syrian 
regime in tandem with the Islamic State and calling for cooperation with 
the armed opposition. Signatories to the statement included Harakat Hazm 
and the Fifth Legion, some of the only FSA units to receive 
American-made weapons from the Military Operations Command, a grouping 
of western and Arab intelligence agencies coordinating their support to 
the opposition, led by the U.S.
In a heated meeting with the Syrian opposition in Istanbul Thursday, 
U.S. officials demanded an explanation for the statement condemning the 
American-led coalition.
"They said 'friends don't speak against friends,'" said an opposition 
official with knowledge of the meeting. "We told them, 'true friendship 
means coordination.'" The meeting was confirmed by a second opposition 
The Syrian opposition has been put in a tight corner with the U.S.-led 
strikes, which have killed at least a dozen civilians so far and risk 
further enraging the population against the FSA for their alliance to 
the international coalition.
On Tuesday, the first day of the strikes, 12 civilians were killed. The 
casualties included two members of a family in Kfar Daryan in Idlib 
province, when a nearby Nusra training camp was targeted.
At 3.a.m. Tuesday, 13-year old Mohammed al Omar was sleeping at a 
relative's house when a loud explosion caused part of the ceiling to 
collapse in the room he was sleeping in. He fought to make it out of the 
rubble, and headed to his family's house to check in, discovering that 
his two year old sister, Rayyan, and seven year old brother, Khalid, had 
been killed in the strikes – some of the first by the international 
"Our house was destroyed. We're accustomed to the regime aircraft's 
destruction but this was much bigger," Mr. Omar said. "We are so angry, 
especially that Arabs, our own people, are in this alliance to kill us— 
directly or indirectly—and they are helping the regime kill us."
Like most Syrians interviewed, Mr. Omar called for the international 
coalition to target the Syrian government alongside Islamic State.
"The U.S. military has the technology but still they are killing us 
civilians," he said. "We are now refugees in these strikes, our home is 
destroyed. We want this all to end."
On Friday, at least one civilian was killed and five injured in the 
"Our fear is that those airstrikes will hurt civilians and create 
casualties and increase recruits for ISIS," said Ahmed al-Eid, a 
commander for Harakat Hazm, one of the more powerful, U.S.-backed FSA 
groups that is fighting in Syria's north.
Complicating the military campaign, the Islamic State is moving its 
sophisticated weapons and personnel further away from standalone 
military bases and into civilian populated areas and infrastructure, 
according to the FSA.
When the U.S. announced that it would start striking Islamic State in 
Syria, the group began moving its most valuable prisoners—including 
western detainees—and its most sophisticated weapons such as tanks and 
artillery to Tabqa dam in Raqqa province, in an attempt to ward off any 
strikes. If hit, Tabqa dam, Syria's largest, has the ability to flood 
several cities across the country, including Damascus, the opposition 
—Mohammad Nour Alakraa contributed to this article.
Write to Sam Dagher at sam.dagher at wsj.com and Maria Abi-Habib at 
maria.habib at wsj.com 

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