& Dan’s conversation below provides a nice segue to a post I’ve been
working… Russia has been watching the conflict in Syria closely and just announced the deployment of five ships to the Mediterranean in the event a non-combatant evacuation of Russian citizens is required. In addition to preparing for this
contingency, this deployment signals waning Russian support for the Assad
regime. Elsewhere on the naval front in Syria, since I posted this, both the web and more official
sources have been scant on additional information on the Syrian rebel fight at
sea. More about that in a minute. But first, a bit about the nature of this
It must be understood that the ongoing fighting in the Levant isn’t simply a rebellion by people who have been oppressed by the minority Alawite regime; though, certainly desire for liberty is an integral component of the conflict. Rather, the context of this fight is a complex sectarian proxy war between Salafists Sunnis on one side and the Iranians on the other. In military doctrinal terms, for the Iranians, the war represents a foreign internal defense effort to prop up one of their sole remaining allies in the region, while for the Salafists, Syria is an unconventional warfare effort to overthrow an Iranian proxy state. There is no love lost ideologically between the Shia Persians and Assad's Alawites, who basically are considered apostates by other Shia. But Iran is willing to overlook those religious differences to maintain this important strategic partnership, and has expended considerable military, financial, and political resources to support Assad. Also interesting is that the Kurdish Worker's Party (PKK), has received recognition from both Assad and Iran. PKK has joined the fray against rebelling Sunni co-religionists; clearly seeking to take advantage of the chaos to better position itself against their arch-enemy Turkey.
|Ethnic Demographics are against the formation of a FSN|
As to the “Free Syrian Navy,” after months of silence, a new post appeared on their completely unofficial blog last week. Notice that the new appeal to fishermen and boat owners to take up arms and form a coastal assault force is now directed to Lebanon. As I mentioned in the previous post, there are a number of missions where such a maritime capability would be valuable. So why haven't earlier efforts to form a Free Syrian Navy borne fruit?
It appears that coastal demographics are tilted against the formation of a viable naval resistance. The most likely reason the rebels haven’t had success is that the Alawite strongholds on the coast - those populations most likely to have some sort of fishing/sea-going experience - are aligned with the regime. Were Assad to fall, the populations here would be fighting for their lives, not just to remain in political power. They have no incentive to fight against him now. Hence the FSN request to Sunnis in Lebanon to join the naval fight. The efforts to organize an FSN are probably futile, especially given a full naval order of battle remains intact on the regime side.