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Syria’s Benghazi | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Libyan city of Benghazi represented the major turning point in the popular uprising against Colonel Gaddafi’s regime. The city itself dealt a fatal blow to the backbone Gaddafi’s regime when it transformed into a buffer zone, thus facilitating foreign intervention. These days, the course of events in Syria indicates that the rebels there are searching for something similar, and perhaps more effective.

Today the Syrian revolutionaries are pursuing a strategy that seems smart and effective so far, namely the search for a Syrian Benghazi or as a source close to what is happening on the ground in Syria told me, the rebels are “searching for multiple Benghazis, not just one”. These could be Homs, Zabadani, and others, which the rebels consider to be liberated cities. Of course there were questions about why the al-Assad army has withdrawn from some of those areas, especially as this withdrawal came as the result of negotiations with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which is now protecting some of the demonstrators in sensitive areas in Syria, including the outskirts of Damascus. In fact, this is a crucial matter that explains the weakness and instability of al-Assad’s forces, and the erosion of their control in certain areas of Syria.

There is an explanation for the instability of al-Assad’s forces, with sources indicating that the al-Assad regime is intentionally reducing the armament of its official army, out of fear of members defecting and taking their weapons with them. This is a very important point, and a source told me that in the beginning, members of the army were fighting, then there was a process of surrender or defections after the battle heated up, but what is happening today is quite different, with the source saying that once the army was besieged by the rebels and the FSA, you could only hear “crying and begging from members of the army loyal to al-Assad”. The only earnest armament process is taking place with members of Maher al-Assad’s fourth division and the Republican guard, which are both exhausted, and cannot be present in all Syrian areas.

Therefore, the rebels are now seeking to impose a new reality in search of the Syrian Benghazi, and then unite the separated areas in one line or under one context, to serve as a buffer zone before the intervention of any third party. This may explain the information that has been reported about the al-Assad regime’s attempt to involve groups from Hezbollah, in order to help thwart the project for Syrian “Benghazis”! There is also a theory that the al-Assad regime is deliberately waiting for the departure of the Arab observer delegation to deliver a final blow to the rebels.

Thus, this reading of the Syrian situation, citing sources close to the rebels, helps to draw attention to an important matter, namely that the facts on the Syrian ground are moving much faster than the pace of Arab and international diplomacy. The importance of this matter increases when we consider the remarks of King Abdullah II, who said that the coming weeks are crucial for Syria. The Turks are repeating the same thing to their visitors, and this assessment has also been declared by the Israelis!

So the question is: Will those gathered in Cairo today consider these facts or not?