Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

November 13, 2012

Despite rebel deal, Syria can keep up the fight


"This new body will help us mobilize more international support and resources for the Syrian opposition," said the secretary-general of the Syrian National Council, Bassam Ishak, during talks Sunday in Qatar's capital, Doha, that were observed by representatives from the U.S., Turkey and other rebel backers.

The U.S. also is likely to play more than simply a bystander role if major weapons channels open for the rebels, who now battle mostly with firepower seized from Assad's military and light arms such as AK-47 machine guns bought on black markets or smuggled across borders.

Washington's logistical aid, such as surveillance and intelligence, would be essential to keep weapons routes open and reaching the right rebel units, analysts say.

"Still, I don't think we are quite at the green-light stage for weapons," said Theodore Karasik, a regional security expert at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. "I think the jury is still out on what types of weapons are needed."

Karasik believes Syrian rebels have the capability to hold ground with the weapons they have as the conflict increasingly takes on the urban combat showdowns of past insurgencies such as Chechnya.

"They are fighting a Soviet-built army using Soviet and Russian tactics," he said. "You can probably fight that with the weapons you already have on the ground ... Anything else, like anti-aircraft capabilities, could help tip the scales."

Two likely routes for stepped up military aid would be Turkey and Jordan — both bordering on pockets of rebel-held territory.

The regime could face yet another challenge if Israel gets drawn into the fighting, something that would further stretch Assad's already struggling forces.

An Israeli tank struck a Syrian army vehicle Monday after a mortar shell landed on Israeli-held territory, the military said, in the first direct confrontation between the countries since the Syrian uprising broke out, sharpening fears that Israel could be drawn into the civil war next door.

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