Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Taking Syria from Extremists

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Taking Syria from Extremists

Article excerpt

The U.S. commitment to aiding the Syrian opposition against the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad has been one of many words and few deeds. Repeated pledges of support absent material assistance have allowed fringe elements to establish themselves in northern Syria. If this trend persists, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's warning of "efforts by extremists to hijack the Syrian revolution" will soon become reality.

During a recent three-week trip to the Middle East, I observed both encouraging and disturbing developments. I went into Aleppo, Syria's largest city and industrial capital, to see how Syrians were coping with chaos. About 75 percent of Aleppo is under opposition control.

I expected to talk to average people overwhelmed with trying to restore order. Instead, I encountered a sophisticated civilian governance structure. The Aleppo Transitional Revolutionary Council, run by a 23-member board of university-educated professionals, has emerged in the liberated areas. To restore critical services to the heavily damaged city, the council has formed 12 committees covering law enforcement, education, bakeries, relief efforts and more. The medical council alone was running eight hospitals. (Shelling by the Assad regime leveled one of those hospitals last month.)

The people I met with impressed me with their professionalism and they way they emphasized the "interim" before their titles. All said they plan to abide by election results once peace is restored to the city.

A few months ago, the majority of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) elements in Aleppo coalesced into the Revolutionary Military Council under the disciplined leadership of Col. Abduljabar Ekeidi. They have shockingly few resources: Because of protocols governing how supplies can enter Syria, the council is able to scrape together enough ammunition for a day's fighting about every two weeks. …

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