Wednesday, March 06, 2013


Quneitra Wreckage and the UN

this is crazy. i can't see how seizing a bunch of UNDOF peacekeepers this does anything to help the syrian rebel cause, but i can think of a ton of ways that it will hurt them. monkeying around with the UN patrolled zone in golan invites an israeli incursion. it reinforces the idea that syrian rebels are undisciplined and not subject to any central command. it gives further ammunition to people who believe the syrian rebellion is destabilizing to the wider region. it's another strike against the people in the west who have been inching towards giving military aid to the rebels. this incident could cause the UN to pull out, which might cause the IDF to move in to impose their own security zone.

so what is in it for the "martyrs of yamouk"? and who the hell are they anyway? some spin off of the syrian martyrs' brigade? or is this some brand new faction?

(the photo is one i took when i visited the ruins of quneitra in the UN deployment  zone in 2005. the white not-wrecked building is UNDOF headquarters)

UPDATE (3/7/2013): it looks like the UN peacekeepers are going to be released. and the yarmouk martyrs’ brigade is now saying that it rescued, rather than kidnapped, the peacekeepers. which doesn't jive at all with what was said in the videos from yesterday. i mean, "We are holding the forces of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force until the withdrawal of Bashar al-Assad’s forces from the village of al-Jamla and its outskirts to their positions" doesn't sound like a rescue to me. nor does "We won’t release them until after the withdrawal of the forces of the regime of Bashar al-Assad from the outskirts of the village of al-Jamla, which is on the border with Israel. We ask them for the complete withdrawal of the forces back to their positions. If the withdrawal does not take place within 24 hours, we will treat them as prisoners of war, and praise be to God almighty."

what i'm guessing is some hothead rebel group saw the peacekeepers delivering ferrying supplies to to the UNDOF, and assumed they were supplying assad's troops. so they took them hostage, posted some videos on youtube about the UN being in cahoots with israel and assad, and got some international attention. once that happened, the much more savvy syrian national coalition got involved, came up with the story that the peacekeepers were being held for their own protection and invited the red cross to come and pick them up.

assuming that happens, that will, at least temporarily, diffuse that particular crisis. there still is a question whether UNDOF has much of a future.  only five countries contributed troops to that mission. croation just pulled out. the philippines might after what just happened. which would mean that either (a) austria, india, or japan would have to up their troop commitment, (b) the UN find some other countries to volunteer soldiers, or (c) the mission would have to scale down or possibly end. how israel would react to that (i.e. whether it would create a unilateral security zone to fill the vacuum left by a departing UNDOF) is a big issue.