The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Rebel: 70% of Aleppo with the regime

Syrian rebels fight on for Aleppo despite local wariness

Martin Chulov reporting for The Guardian:

More than a month into the battle for Aleppo, the rebels who seized control of much of the city sense that its residents do not yet fully support them. Opposition fighters – around 3,000 of them – are almost the only people moving around the eastern half that the Free Syrian Army now controls. The small numbers of non-fighters who remain seem to pay them little heed. Few seem openly welcoming.

"Yes it's true," said Sheikh Tawfik Abu Sleiman, a rebel commander sitting on the ground floor of his fourth new headquarters – the other three were bombed. "Around 70% of Aleppo city is with the regime. It has always been that way. The countryside is with us and the city is with them. We are saying that we will only be here as long as it takes to get the job done, to get rid of the Assads. After that, we will leave and they can build the city that they want."

I'm sure a lot is going to be made of that quote, because it raises some very legitimate questions. Aleppo is not Benghazi, where there was massive local support. The rebels are not mostly locals, an indeed may include many foreigners. Residents, which include many minorities that are the most worried about a long civil war, are understandably not happy their city has been turned into a war zone. Aleppo is a strategic point to control the north, that is why the battle has been brought there. The countryside vs. urban sentiment the rebel brings up leads on to many other questions. One doesn't want to extrapolate from a single quote, but therein lies the dilemma of the Syrian civil war: there still is not substantial evidence that there is an overwhelming sentiment among the Syrian population for it — not that many support the regime, but simply that many may not think it's worth it. In wars, though, the undecided and the reluctant rarely decide.