(NYRB) Max Rodenbeck–The Agony of Syria

Less than a week after this grim conversational bidding war, the district of the capital where these women and their children had been taken in was shelled, then raided by government forces.

Not surprisingly, the regime’s iron-fisted approach has made real what had merely been a nightmarish fantasy. From the start it portrayed the revolutionaries as bands of heavily armed Sunni Muslim fanatics, funded and directed by Syria’s enemies. The charge was laughable a year ago, when by all accounts there were simply no guns in opposition hands at all. Even by February, after eleven months of unrest, a trophy table of captured “terrorist” weapons displayed for journalists at an army club in Deraa, the battered city near the Jordanian border where protests first began, proved embarrassingly puny. Amid rusted pistols and primitive pipe bombs, the only serious weapon was a Stalingrad-vintage Bulgarian-made sniper rifle.

Only recently has the Free Syrian Army, the loose coalition of local fighting groups that emerged last fall, begun to wield much firepower. Despite talk of large-scale aid from sympathetic Sunni Muslims in the Persian Gulf, and in particular the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the flow of money did not pick up until this spring, while the flow of weapons from outside Syria even now remains a trickle.

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