In this chapter I will illustrate in facts what I called in the preface the “mysterious behavior of the Assad regime” during the Syrian crisis. . I will list 10 facts as examples of this ambiguous behavior and describe them briefly.
This behavior was explained by the stream media as merely “stupidity” or “the expected reaction of a dictator trying to maintain his position”. Obviously, I don’t agree with this.
This part is about FACTS, no theory here. I witnessed these facts first hand and added -when possible- references from various trusted sources. However, I would appreciate if the reader went even further and investigated these facts from other sources they might trust more.
My own theory to explain this behavior will come in a later essay. That explanation is my own. The reader can contradict it. No facts there. However, I will also use several outside sources to support it.
While thousands of foreign fighters were flooding into Syria, the Syrian regime’s army was working at full capacity to destroy Syrian cities one by one. This didn’t change when the Russian air forces took over part of the destroying operation. The fighters were crossing the Syrian borders on a daily basis, armed with tons of weapons and vehicles. They came mainly from the Turkish borders and partially from Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. In almost no cases were the fighters’ convoys attacked. They were moving in plain sight, without challenge. Neither the Syrian regime’s nor the Russians’ air forces tried to stop them.
Further, and Soon after the rebellion started, the regime released thousands of arrested radicals who were detained in the famous prisons Sednaya and Palmira. These prisons were described as “labs for manufacturing the terrorists”.
General Khaled Al Mutlak, a defected Syrian officer, wrote in a very informative article:
“Sednaya prison has been and still is a labor for the Syrian regime intelligence service agencies. It produces personalities who are against the regime, who are suspected of terrorism and who became, upon their release, the main tools in achieving the goals of the Assad regime. […] They took command positions of the factions which were described as Islamist, with full support from Arabic and International Intelligence Agencies.”
General Mutlak named some examples of these figures like:
· Abu Lokman, one of the founders of the Al Nusra front in Syria, who also worked as ISIS Leader (Emir) in Al Raqqa [North Syria, and the capital of ISIS in Syria]
· Mahmoud Al Kholaif, the security officer in ISIS
· Haj Fadel Al Agha, the relations officer
· Abu Abdul Rahman Al Hamwi, Al Nusra leader in Hama
· Abu Naser Darwasha, the cousin of Abu Mohammad Al Jawlani, the leader of HTS (Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, previously Al Nusra Front)
· Abu Hafs Al Keswani, the Islamist leader in Daraa, and others.
“‘The reason the regime released them at the beginning of the Syrian revolution was to complete the militarization of the uprising,’ said Naser, who defected in late 2012. ‘And to spur criminal acts so that revolution would become a criminal case and give the impression that the regime is fighting terrorists’ […] John Kerry, the outgoing secretary of state, said in November 2015 that ISIS ‘was created by Assad’ and by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, both of whom released al Qaeda prisoners in their respective countries. Assad’s aim was to tell the world, ‘It’s me or the terrorists.’”
Most analysts, opposition thinkers and writers agree with this analysis.
My objection to this simple explanation is: the Assad regime achieved this goal within the first two years. There is a big question mark hovering over this. By 2013 Isis occupied large parts of Syria and Iraq. With the news dominating international media and Syrians fed up with the Islamists and foreign factions, the Assad regime had the justification it needed to end the armed rebellion and restore its control over Syria. As I will explain in the following points, the Assad regime did the exact opposite.
The different headquarters of the armed opposition stayed unmolested during the seven years of the militarized rebellion. Armed rebels grew in number in each small town or city center across the area controlled by the opposition. The factions of this opposition, led now by unknown foreigner fighters, occupied government buildings and schools and turned them into military buildings. These headquarters were always surrounded with armed vehicles. They were completely visible and could be easily monitored and observed. The Syrian and Russian aircraft were flying over these headquarters on a daily basis while their raids attacked the civilian hospitals, markets, childrens’ schools and houses. Neither the Syrian aircraft and later the Russian ones tried to bother the headquarters of the armed opposition. They even avoided causing any harm to them.
In many events, the tanks of the opposition were marching peacefully towards their destination without any attack, or even fear of the attack.
One of the most illustrative examples was when;
“An entire 1,000-strong rebel brigade based in Syria’s Idlib province has reportedly defected to the Islamic State group […] The Dawud Brigade, which was based in Sarmin and fell under the umbrella of the anti-government Sham Army, arrived in the northeastern city of Raqqa last weekend, the main headquarters for the Islamic State (IS) – previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL). [The distance between Sarmin and Raqqa is over 200 Km, plain land, during that time the Syrian airplanes were flying and attacking the civilians not so far] The rebel group arrived in a convoy of over 100 vehicles, including 10 tanks seized from Syrian government forces.
This actually poses two questions, not just one.
First, why were these convoys not bothered by the Russian and Syrian airplanes? In some cases these airplanes were attacking hospitals and civilian markets, while flying over these moving tanks.
The second question mark is even bigger: where did this trust and serenity of the opposition tanks came from? Where did they get the assurance that they wouldn’t be attacked, so they didn't even try to hide?
In some areas that stayed under the control of the regime like Aleppo and Damascus, the armed opposition was allowed to stay close to the city centers. During the crisis years, these opposition points launched on a daily basis locally made shells to kill a couple of inhabitants. Some of these points were not far from Assad’s palace no more than a few kilometers and stayed so for years. Although it was very easy and closer to the heart of the regime to destroy these points, the regime aircraft skipped them and focused on targets hundreds of kilometers away. This guaranteed the loyalty of the inhabitants who were mostly Christian, Druze or belonged to other minorities. This also created a hostile attitude against the opposition. Words like “freedom”, “democracy” or “revolution” became the ugliest words these inhabitants could hear.
On the other hand, the Assad’s regime was keen to arrest or kill peaceful activists and publicly insult the intellectuals and the elders in many targeted areas. During the eight year revolution, the arrest of innocents, women, children and peaceful activists didn’t stop. They were tortured and degraded in horrible ways. This became a phenomena represented by thousands of cases, many of which were leaked and documented.
In many cases, the arrested or tortured were merely neutral innocents or even pro regime citizens.
Many thinkers explained this behavior of the regime as a tactic to militarize the revolution. According to them, the peaceful revolution was dangerous to the regime and scared it because of the potential for regime collapse. This explanation sounds logical to some extent. However, this behavior of the regime continued even after the revolution was deeply militarized, Islamized and even globalized. The regime got enough indications and proof of radical and armed rebellion in the first year of the revolution. That could be enough justification to suppress the rebellion. So why didn’t this unjustified brutality stop during the eight years of the revolution?
The regime has been clearly and systematically encouraging the armed movements, while brutally suppressing any peaceful activities.
At the start of the rebellion, the rebels obtained most of their weapons from the Syrian regime itself. The Assad regime’s officers sold the rebels everything they needed. This initially appeared as mere corruption. However, anyone who has a basic knowledge of Syrian affairs will know that it is impossible for such a thing to happen without a green light from the central command of the Assad regime’s intelligence services. The risk is very high and the discovery of such deals is almost certain. No sane officer would risk so much for a few thousand bucks. This could mean an eternity in hell for the officer, their families and even their clans. After the Hama Massacre in 1982, no Syrian would have had the courage to sell a cigarette to someone fighting against the regime. Even just speaking to some suspected person was a crime, let alone selling weapons. When such deals start to take place on a regular basis, under similar conditions across the whole country, that cannot be accidental. This is a systematic process, with full consent from the high central command of the Assad regime’s intelligence agencies. Most of these officers who committed such deals moved to areas controlled by the regime, where they would live for many years. None of them were investigated or punished for these deals.
 See also Der Spiegel newspaper’s report: “Around the beginning of the Syrian uprising, in March 2011, Assad once again released jihadists from the country's prisons. Simultaneously, tens of thousands of Syrian students, liberal activists, and human rights advocates began being arrested. Their fates were recently documented by Human Rights Watch, which alleges that many have been detained arbitrarily, tortured, and subjected to unfair trials.” http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/former-prisoners-fight-in-syrian-insurgency-a-927158.html
Also the Telegraph report about the same issue: “Sednaya Prison, northeast of Damascus, Syria. Thousands of political prisoners have been held here by President Assad's regime, and it is well attested that President Bashar al-Assad ran hot and cold on jihadists throughout his reign. He encouraged them to go to Iraq to join Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda offshoot, the predecessor to Isil, and fight America after 2003, but also jailed many on their return home if they seemed to pose a similar threat to his own rule. When the uprising in Syria began in spring 2011, he released hundreds of them under an amnesty. The amnesty, supposedly for political prisoners, was denounced at the time as a fraud, or too little too late. In fact, it was one of the most important political acts Mr. Assad made. The prisoners released were mostly Islamists, who went on to join or form a string of armed groups, while secular and peaceful protesters and activists continued to be jailed and killed.” http://s.telegraph.co.uk/graphics/projects/isis-jihad-syria-assad-islamic/
 https://www.syria.tv/content/مختبرات-ترويض-الإرهاب . Mutlak thinks that “the story of manufacturing and preparing those persons among others started on 2005. The Syrian Intelligence agencies implemented a practical training program to prepare Jihadist Islamists and civilians who have been qualified as a part of a bigger test of internal expected conflict. The place of this test was Sydnaya prison where the prison was gradually handed to the Islamists prisoners starting from the first intractableness (27 March 2009), then the second one (5 June 2008)”.
 “Assad Henchman: Here’s How We Built ISIS” a two-year investigation by The Daily Beast shows.
 The exact scene was also seen in the battle of liberating Idlib city center in the north of Syria. The convoys of opposition tanks were marching gloriously towards the City Center under the sun. On that day, the Syrian aircrafts attacked Sarmin city, which is 3 Km away from Idlib. These attacks killed many civilians and caused a lot of damage to the central market, hospitals, and children schools in Sarmin and its countryside! “On March 28, 2015, a coalition of Islamist rebel groups including Ahrar al-Sham and jihadists from the Al-Nusra Front, now known as Fatah al-Sham Front, seized the Sunni-majority city. […] Syrian warplanes, and later Russian jets, have repeatedly targeted cities and towns in Idlib province.”
Read also in the same report: “Brigade’s leader [was] Hassan Abound [which is also ex-Sydney prisoner who was freed by the Syrian regime 2011]
“Meanwhile there have been reports on Monday that several rebel factions affiliated with the FSA have pledged allegiance to the IS in the border town of al-Bokmal in eastern Syria. […] The reports of the defections come as the Obama administration ratchets up efforts to arm the Free Syrian Army. Last month the White House asked Congress for half-a-billion dollars in aid to go towards the opposition fighters.”
 As I promised the reader, I will postpone my own explanation of the events to the next essay, and keep this essay for facts only. However, I would take this opportunity to wonder here if the above described behavior of Assad’s regime has anything to do with an exact similar behavior somewhere else in this world, namely in Pakistan as James Risen reported in his exceptional book “Pay Any Price”:
“On March 17, 2011, American drones fired at least two missiles into a gathering in Data Khel that killed more than forty people. The U.S. government insisted that the drone strike killed a Taliban commander, but villagers later told investigators that drones had attacked a meeting of a local elders gathered to negotiate a dispute over a chromite mine. Many of those killed were men who were both local elders and heads of large families. Their deaths triggered yet another round of anti-American protest in Pakistan.” Pay Any Price, James Risen, PP 2015, P 55.
 “Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad went on a systematic killing spree, murdering at least 108 people. Most shockingly, the killers targeted women and children. A U.N. representative said the victims included 49 children who were younger than 10. The al-Assad regime denied it carried out the atrocities, but U.N. officials said they saw clear evidence that the Syrian government was involved in the attacks.”
 In one of the inspection campaign processed by Assad Regime against Saraqib, my town, the soldiers caught an armed leader from the opposition. The soldiers called the high command happily to inform them of the siege. The brutal furious answer came from their command: Release him, you bastards.