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Free Syrian Army Relocates Inside Syria
October 1, 2012

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The most well-known armed opposition group in Syria, the Free Syrian Army, has announced plans to move its command headquarters from neighboring Turkey to inside Syrian borders.

The exact location hasn't been announced (although opposition forces control large parts of the country near the border with Turkey), and some observers worry that this is just another example of the daunting challenge faced by those who have spoken out against President Bashar al-Assad.

The 19-month uprising has morphed from large peaceful protests into violent battles, with civilians killed by both sides, either in firefights or outside of normal combat. Opposition forces have managed to secure weapons, equipment, and funding from outside sources, but the one thing yet to emerge among those protesting against what they see as an authoritarian regime is a unified force. The message is unified enough — Assad must go — but the military actions have been anything but unified. The Free Syrian Army has had high-powered support, and its leader, Col. Riad Assad, is known to others fighting government troops; but the opposition forces are largely locally controlled militias or larger groups of fighters who have their own units and their own fighting strategies. To add to the confusion, the countries that have given aid to opposition forces (among them Qatar and Saudi Arabia) have done so individually, not in a concerted manner.

Western observers have become increasingly alarmed at the methods employed by opposition forces, such as the use of car bombs. Such tactics have shown limited success and have furthered reluctance from other countries to get involved, certainly military but also economically.

The Syrian opposition is not at all like the united force that confronted the forces commanded by Col. Moammar Gadhafi in the Libyan uprising. (And even the Libyan opposition is becoming more and more fractured now that their responsibility has changed from fighting to governing.)

For his part, Assad is talking tough, with plans to liberate Damascus. Many of the capital's suburbs are hotbeds for opposition sentiment and strength, but the seat of power for the country is still firmly in the hands of the president and his army.

The same can be said for Aleppo, the country's commercial center and largest city, where a fierce firefight recently resulted in a massive fire that destroyed much of a medieval market.






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