He was an intelligent young man but his story was told simply and untutored. His was no set propaganda speech. “I come from Idlib Province and they came to my father and said they needed me there,” he said. “But my father refused and said, ‘If you want my son, go and bring him here – and if you do, you will not find me here to greet him.’ Then my father sent most of his family to Lebanon. My father and mother are still there and they are still being threatened.” I tell the officers later that I do not believe every Syrian defector left because of threats to his family, that some soldiers must have profoundly disagreed with the regime. They agree but insist that the army remains strong.
Colonel Mohamed, who mixes military strategy with politics, says he regards the foreign “plot” against Syria as a repeat version of the Sykes-Picot Agreement of the First World War, when Britain and France secretly decided to divide up the Middle East – including Syria – between them. “Now they want to do the same,” he says. “Britain and France want to give weapons to the terrorists to divide us, but we want to have a united Syria in which all our people live together, democratically, caring not about their religion but living peacefully…” And then came the crunch. “…under the leadership of our champion Dr Bashar al-Assad.”
But it is not that simple. The word “democracy” and the name of Assad do not blend very well in much of Syria. And I rather think that the soldiers of what is officially called the Syrian Arab Army are fighting for Syria rather than Assad. But fighting they are and maybe, for now, they are winning an unwinnable war. At Beit Fares, I peak over the parapet once more and the mist is rising off the mountains.
This could be Bosnia. The country is breathtaking, the grey-green hills rolling into blue velvet mountains. A little heaven. But the fruits along this front line are bitter indeed.
In my honest opinion,… yes…. Syria is pretty balkanized now… looks like Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo… but these are not the times of Bill Clinton, when everyone agreed in who had crossed the “redlines”
… there are many lines in this war, by now.
And all are red.