“Hundreds of Fatigued Syrian Rebels Give Up the Fight”
Los Angeles Times, July 18, 2014
“For two years, Emad Fa’aas was a devoted rebel fighter. In the early days when Syrian rebels took up arms against the government of President Bashar Assad, he joined other fighters in attacking military checkpoints, sometimes traveling to neighboring provinces. When the fighting spread into his city of Aleppo he spent long stretches fighting on the front lines, at times separated from his family for an entire month. These days his hands are stained red, from cherry ice cream. The front lines are not far away, but now he holds an ice cream scoop rather than a gun. Gone are his fighting days, replaced with working at the nameless shop, with a commercial coffee maker but otherwise bare shelves, that he recently opened to support his family. … More than three years after the Syrian uprising began, marked by hope that it would succeed quickly, as in Tunisia and Egypt, optimism has been replaced with a sense of failure and a sentiment that the conflict has wrought little but destruction and loss. Some have put down their guns and returned to the farming fields they left when the uprising began. ‘A lot of people left because it’s taking so long; they thought it was going to be a matter of yelling “God is great” twice in protest and a few hits and it would be over,’ said Samir Zaitoun, a commander with Al Tawheed Brigade. By his estimate, nearly half the fighters in Aleppo have left over the last year, most of them from small rebel groups. … ‘We did what we could,’ [a former rebel fighter] said. ‘But in the end the country has been destroyed.'”
Quickie Analysis: As more Syrians are putting down their weapons, the fight is increasingly left to foreign jihadists. Who sits at the peace table? And who makes the foreigners go home?