Syrian Rebels Accused of Massacring 25 People in Northern Village

The dead and mutilated bodies are dressed as shabiha, the term for pro-Assad militiamen

by John Glaser, June 22, 2012

At least 25 people have been killed and their bodies mutilated by what Syrian state media described as “terrorists,” as a video was released showing the bodies piled on top of each other and being described by the cameraman as a pro-Assad militia.

“These are shabiha of Bashar al-Assad’s regime,” the narrator said, referring to the opposition’s name for pro-government armed gangs, and adding that they had been killed by the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) after clashes in northern Syria.

The SANA state news agency cited sources as saying the victims had been abducted earlier on Friday from Darat Izza, a village in Aleppo province. Activists said 26 government supporters had been shot dead by rebels.

As with most news of massacres from either side, little about the incident can be independently confirmed. But this type of behavior is consistent with earlier findings, like those from the UN, which describe crimes and atrocities being committed by the opposition fighters, including extrajudicial killings and torture.

Still, these are the groups to whom the Obama administration has directed the CIA to funnel money. Covert operatives are reportedly working in neighboring Turkey to coordinate the delivery of arms and heavy artillery to parts of the opposition deemed to be suitable.

But no so-called “vetting process” could ensure the weapons wouldn’t be used by unscrupulous groups. Even if it could, arming one side in a virtual civil war would not be a legitimate, or a prudent foreign policy.

As Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and an expert on Syria, wrote in Foreign Policy this month, “Let’s be clear: Washington is pursuing regime change by civil war in Syria. The United States, Europe, and the Gulf states want regime change, so they are starving the regime in Damascus and feeding the opposition.”

George Washington University professor and Middle East expert Marc Lynch has argued that “arming the Syrian opposition, would likely spread the violence and increase the numbers of Syrian dead without increasing the likelihood of regime collapse.” Also, as we saw in Libya, “fighting groups will rise in political power, while those who have advocated nonviolence or who advance political strategies will be marginalized.”

The potential for this meddling to escalate the violence and exacerbate the suffering is very, very high, and recent UN investigations suggest the Syrian rebels have committed atrocities in recent weeks. The humanitarian concerns in Syria are real, but military intervention does not offer a compelling alternative, especially since Washington would undoubtedly be getting involved in a geopolitical game against Iran, as opposed to for humanitarian concerns.

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