U.S. Providing Modest Support to Rebels in Southern Syria

(Now Lebanon) Michael Weiss - Western efforts to consolidate, arm, and train Syrian rebels have had the greatest impact in the south of the country. An ongoing military operation, known as the Battle of Geneva Houran, has yielded a series of tactical rebel victories in the last fortnight as U.S.-financed and Saudi-purchased weapons have begun pouring across the Jordanian-Syrian border. Based on sources involved in the battle, the most that can be expected from it is a secure buffer zone that stretches from Deraa to Quneitra to parts of the southern Damascus countryside - a zone in which not only the regime's military presence is minimized, but jihadist and al-Qaeda elements are deterred. Within two days of receiving an American subsidy, rebels launched Geneva Houran, and sources in Deraa and Rif Dimashq told The National [Abu Dhabi] that they now have funding to pay salaries for nine months. Although the Islamic Front, the biggest consortium of mainly-Salafist rebels, has a heavy presence in southern Syria, so far relations between the Front and the Houran Joint Military Operations Command have remained "good." This is because the Free Syrian Army "is a lot stronger in the south than in the north and there is not much of a risk of the Front's strong-arming the FSA," said Feras, a Syrian rebel source based in Deraa. Even Jabhat al-Nusra's presence close to the Jordanian and Israeli borders is less of a threat, according to Feras, since the jihadists are fewer and "pragmatic."

2014-02-14 00:00:00

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