Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Initial soundings....

We met some of our contacts today, and what we have learnt is worrying. Things on the ground have changed immensely since we were last here, and new fronts in the battle are opening up.

While the main war between rebels and the regime continues stronger than ever, the most talked about is that between jihadis, salafis and the FSA. The FSA is doing it's best to distance itself from these other elements but this is hard.

Fighters from around the world have begun to arrive - some in support of the legitimate uprising against Assad, but others to wage jihad against the Shi'ites. This has caused ripples than can be felt everywhere and some rebels have gone as far as to admit that things may have been better under Assad than they will be following his departure. One thing that everyone agrees on is that this conflict will continue for many years to come.

With Saudi, Quatar, Iran, Hezbollah, Russia, China and the US all having a stake in this, and attempting in one way or another to destabilize elements in the region, this is not at all surprising; though I will delve into politics tomorrow.

In the mean time the immediacy of staying alive in the face of a far greater military force remains the main concern, and the regime continues to shell and attack from the air. This goes on unabated claiming many innocent lives per day, and should remain at the forefront of our minds.

Food is at a low, inflation impossibly high, and basic medical supplies in grave shortage. The FSA has better weapons now– rockets and heavy artillery, though nothing to counter the regime. They have shot down 14 planes using new weapons; supposedly sourced from Turkey, and they continue to be armed and financed in a big way.

There are rumours of a secret agreement between the US, UK, Saudi, Turkey and Qatar, that allows Turkish weapons to be filtered through to the rebels, though at present I have only little evidence of this.

The border with Turkey is no longer held by the regime and the FSA controls the vast majority of northern territories. As such we should be expected to cross through legitimate border crossings with no problems – however infighting between rebels means this may not be true. I can’t mention details yet, but it may be better for us to cross at night and illegally, than to go through a certain gate, such is the hostility.

There continues to be more FSA infighting between urban and rural brigades, (often the well-financed ones vs the not so well financed.

There are also arguments between defectors within the FSA (who are accused of abandoning a sinking ship,) and those Syrians who have fought the regime from the beginning. (The FSA leaderships's recent move to inside Syria, is an attempt to validate it’s position and unite the factions.)

Sources also tell us that:

-Barrel bombs are the new weapon of choice for the Syrian regime – packed full of TNT, oil and shrapnel they are dropped from helicopters and are far more devastating than other weapons.

-Farouk brigade is fighting a full on conflict with jihadi's in idlib province

-Hamas is now also at odds with the regime.

-Shipments from Benghazi to Mercine carrying both medicines and arms arrive sporadically.

- the CIA has been infiltrating Syria in the guise of western journalists in order to assess jihadi strengths;

We anticipate many stories once inside Syria; Foreign fighters, field hospitals, urban clashes, western involvement, and training camps.  Though once again our true plans must remain a secret, and I must leave you here.