Sunday, 12 May 2013

"Men With Guns" in Syria

Paul Danahar has a few words to say about the Syrian crisis against which we should see the discussion of the looting:
The situation in Syria is complicated. If you are not confused by what is going on there, then you do not understand it. However, to try to make the crisis less confusing to the outside world, policymakers, politicians and journalists have tried to boil it down to good versus evil: the FSA versus President Bashar al-Assad's regime. And the regime has played its part - so far more than 70,000 people are believed to have died in the conflict. But to start to understand why this crisis is so intractable, two things must first be understood.
Firstly, the FSA - that you have been hearing so much about - does not exist. A better title would be MWG, or men with guns, because having guns and firing them in the same direction is the only thing that unites them. The word "army" suggests a cohesive force with a command structure. Almost two years after the FSA was created, that remains illusive. The situation has been further complicated by the introduction into the arena of al-Qaeda-linked jihadists and armed criminal gangs.
The second factor is that (despite claims to the contrary by interested parties) there is no effective political leadership to the Syrian opposition. It seems nobody knows how to end this crisis, which is just about the only thing all sides agree on. This notion of established order being replaced by MWG seems to be the way many of these conflicts have been going, from post-US Afghanistan, to Libya - with parts of Egypt and a few other places falling in to various degrees with this pattern. And when law and order collapse, and armed criminal gangs start to feel free to impose their will, the factors which help prevent looting of sites for lucrative items some unscrupled dealers and collectors will buy for big money collapse, and we see looting of the cultural heritage break out. It is a great stretch of logic to assume that in such circumstances, no-questions-asked collectors are not financing the criminal gangs, and in some cases jihadists. Let them strive to show that they are not. 

Paul Danahar, 'Syria's protracted conflict shows no sign of abating' BBC News, 9 May 2013

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