OK, we couldn’t resist the alliteration, and he may deserve to do the sniveling… but our read on this was a bit chilling. The image here (click to embiggen) was Time’s choice to illustrate this story, and represents a Free Syrian “sniper” position, not necessarily this Free Syrian sniper’s position. You’ll see from picture and text why we use the scare quotes. We’ll explain at the end for the 5% who are always late to get the word.
We’re also not at all sanguine about how Syria will look out if this guy’s side, or any one element of what’s a very chaotic, disorganized resistance, “wins.” Too many Americans including too many political, military and IC leaders seem to think that overthrowing the dictators of the middle east is a blessing for small-d democrats who can then be governed with bread and circuses like big-D Democrats. The problem is that popular opinion in these nations is ignorant, easily swayed, and committed to a religion whose principles are often indistinguishable from naked barbarism. The bread they demand comes from our taxpayers, frequently; their circuses are the three-ring sharia spectacle of public stoning and beheading.
We “empowered the people” in Iran; does any reader suffer under the delusion the outcome was better for the Persian people, their neighbors, or the USA? We “empowered the people” in Egypt, producing a government that grows more like the Iranian one daily, and and have just sent them over $1B in military aid which will be used against us and in support of terrorism. a squadron of the latest block of F-16s, which will at some time in the not-distant future be dispatched against our troops or our allies, or our citizens.
But that’s OK. We’ve just named to our two most senior foreign and defense policy positions, two of the weakest doves in the sad history of our sad Senate, an institution distinct from Caligula’s only by his having both ends of the equine. Well, we were wondering “what could be worse?” than Mrs Clinton and Million-Dollar-Commute Panetta. Fasten your safety belt and keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times, kids, the answer’s coming.
Now that the stage here in the US is set with sufficiently bleak scenery, let’s check in with our man in Aleppo:
To the other men in his Free Syrian Army unit, he’s simply known as the Sniper, a 21-year-old army-trained sharpshooter who defected on Feb. 21 and joined their ranks. Few of his colleagues know his first name let alone his surname — and that’s the way he wants to keep it.
He hails from a Sunni military family in a town on the outskirts of Damascus, the capital. His uncle is a serving general in President Bashar Assad’s army, several of his other relatives are also high-ranking military officers. Apart from his parents and siblings, his relatives all think he’s dead — and that’s the way he wants to keep it.
A trim young man with closely cropped black hair and beard, he looks intense but calm as he sits in complete silence for hours, finger on the trigger, peering through the telescopic sight of his Dragunov sniper rifle. He’s careful not to let its barrel protrude through the double-fist-size peephole he has punched through an apartment wall lest it give away his location to the regime’s sharpshooters, some of whom are only about 50 m (165 ft.) away.
He may look calm, but he’s deeply troubled. After some nine months of fighting with several Free Syrian Army units, first on the outskirts of Aleppo and then in the city itself after the rebel push into it in late July, he has grown disillusioned with the fight and angry with its conduct. “I did this when it was clean,” he says. “Now it’s dirty. Many aren’t fighting just to get rid of Bashar, they’re fighting to gain a reputation, to build up their name. I want it to go back to the way it was, when we were fighting for God and the people, not for some commander’s reputation.”
First place, a Chinese SKS is not much of a sniper system even if you graft an el-cheapo 4X scope on it. Then again, a Dragunov isn’t much as a sniper weapon, either. A sniper positon you shoot over (like a pop-up target? — Ed. Exactly — us) doesn’t speak school-trained sniper, unless that school somehow was operated by Detroit or Washington, DC public-school teachers.
But the real trouble is in what this guy says about the allegiance of the revolution’s commanders and sub-commanders, and what that says about the war. The allegiances are personal and probably ethnic in origin, and will likely persist after the instant question (Bashar or no Bashar?) is resolved.
Anyone who’s spent time in this area knows where the US can find friends… and that’s in the corteges of dictators, in a vanishingly small clique of democracy activists, in Israel, and in Jordan (and even the Jordanian street goodwill towards the USA — the only such in the Arab world — is threatened if Islamist forces can produce the fall of the Bani Hashem.
The sniper-guy himself is motivated at least in part by religious extremism. When the US signed off on aid for the Free Syrians, did the signatories think that they were overthrowing the terrorist Assad regime and replacing it with a terrorist Islamist regime, with more support at home than Assad pêre et fils ever did?
Did they think, period?