By Hanadi Zahlot
Since the very beginning of the battle of the coast, media has exaggerated one piece of reported news. Interviewed by Al-Arabiya channel in response to questions about the latest developments, activist Omar al-Jabalawi answered, saying, "I don’t know what to say", in an indication of just how big the battle really is.
Loyalist websites have repeatedly published news of the detention of hundreds of children, women and elderly people, and about massacres being committed against civilians there, but no accurate information has been provided.
Without a doubt, the battle for the coast is another improvised scene by The Free Syrian Army; the hands moving the scene are hidden.
While it is claimed that the battalions taking part in the coastal affront are affiliated with the General Secretary of Syrian National Coalition, Mustafa Sabbagh, receiving arms and funds through him, other claims suggest it is the Chief of Staff of the Free Syrian Army that is supporting this front.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood announced, through Mulham Droubi, that the "people of the coast should suffer as other Syrians did, criminals shouldn’t feel safe." George Sabra, meanwhile, described the operation as "decontamination of the coast".
After a week of media battles, rather than field battles, news eventually emerged of the same “tactical withdrawal” that should ultimately be interpreted as running out of ammunition.
The Free Syrian Army left whole villages to fall under the random and intense shelling of the regime, leaving us to question whether this was an attempt to decontaminate the coast from the regime, or from its innocent inhabitants?
Definitely, the Syrian coast had served as a safehaven for the army and thuggish loyal militias, but this has also been accompanied by a massacre of Alawites, led by the regime itself, resulting in the deaths of about 50,000 Alawites according to some estimates elsewhere. The depletion of Alawite resource has forced the regime to take recourse to the Basij Iranian fighters and Lebanese Hezbollah Shiite fighters in Qusayr and elsewhere. The regime established training camps for these groups, along with those for elite units in Syrian army from the Fourth Brigade and Presidential Guard. If these fighters are different in doctrines, they agree ideologically, and carried out the massacres committed sequentially in many Syrian regions. Alawites who survived the massacre are used for other military purposes that require less doctrinal and technical experience, or in the marginal regions.
Demographically speaking, the Syrian coast has lost its youth. The number of women and children living there has gradually increased after officer’s families were displaced from elsewhere. It has been a safehaven for many displaced families from other governorates, especially Homs, Aleppo and Idlib. These families belong to all sects with some supportive of the regime and others opposed to it – but all found in the coast cheap residence and safety.
The mafia in the coastal region had warned people not to leave the villages close to Qurdaha. Yet, all these things were not taken into consideration in the media campaign about the battle there; a campaign that speaks about decontamination and an open front with the regime and its army. What front will the Free Syrian Army open against regions primarily occupied by children, women and displaced people? Especially given that those who started this operation know that regime's political, military and strategic power centers aren’t even located in the coastal region.
The symbolic value of Qurdaha remains, but it doesn’t mean any more to the regime than what the presidential palaces in Mazzeh, Muhajireen or Malki do. The regime will not hesitate to shell them, just like they shelled Daraa, Daraya and Aleppo before, leaving nothing behind.
This is not an objection to the priority of an operation in the coastal region; this front should have been opened a long time ago. But it should have happened through national tools, it should be led by patriots with funds and media, given the sensitivity of the region, and because it is a war against the mentality of regime support, rather than one of bullets and shelling.
The battle in the coast, as in any other Syrian region, is a true test of the morality of the Free Syrian Army and fighters there have more responsibility towards their actions. The battle there requires also a national plan, as slipping into the sectarian swamp there will cost the country in decades of killing and destruction. There will be nobody left to claim victory afterwards.
We need national Syrian peace teams, figures and youths to accompany Free Syrian Army battalions when they enter all the villages to talk to its people, people we should prevent from displacement, and those who will find it hard to move between the blazing interior and the shore overlooking mystery.
My countrymen, we don’t want a battle that ends for the thousandth time with regions under bombardment, refugees and displaced people.
We don’t want just empty declarations. We want national work.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer