A spectacular military operation was carried on Saturday the 25th of February 2017 by the newly formed Hayat Tahrir Sham (HTS) wherein approximately 32 military and state security personnel were killed including General Hassan Daabul, an army intelligence chief, at two state security installations in Homs. General Daabul was known for his torture of civilians. Human Rights Watch accused General Daabul in a previous report for being in charge of the Branch 215 facility during the slaughter of 3,500 detainees that were starved and tortured to death as illustrated in the Ceasar photos that shocked the world.
General Hassan Daabul, a close confidant of Bashar Al-Assad and brigadier Ibrahim Darwish, head of the State Security Branch, were amongst at least 32 high ranking regime personnel killed in the audacious attack.
“It was a tragic event. I’m expecting during the talks unfortunately spoilers. Every time we had talks there have always been spoilers,” de Mistura told reporters regarding the attack. This language does not come as a surprise from de Mistura. Who could forget his statements when schools, hospitals, bakeries and nurseries were bombed in Aleppo city? Instead of harshly criticizing these barbaric atrocities by the Assad regime and Russia, he rather blamed the armed opposition in Aleppo, saying they should leave the city, even proposing that he himself would come to Aleppo and escort some of them out if need be. The attack in Homs was clearly limited to military targets. Yet interestingly enough the huge number of airstrikes which have killed scores of civilians in the middle of populated areas (Idlib city amongst others) using weapons of mass destruction did not lead to any real condemnation of any stregnth.
Although the statements of de Mistura were expected, those of Issam Rayes, came as a shock to many. Bashar Jafari, the lead negotiator for the Assad regime, demanded that the rebel negotiating party condemn the attacks. He said: “Today, the test is that we expect that the (opposition) platforms (in Geneva) to condemn this terrorist attack … If anyone refuses to condemn this terrorist attack then he is an accomplice of terrorism and we will deal with them accordingly.”
Instead of pointing out the countless airstrikes that have killed many in rebel territory since the start of the “ceasefire”, the aggression in Wadi Barada, and the continued starvation tactics used by the regime as a pretext and example, Southern Front spokesman Issam Rayes alluded that the attacks were not the result of rebel planning, sacrifice and diligent work but the work of Assad forces bombing their own men to scuttle the peace talks. “The region where the security branches are is very secure and no operation could reach it unless it was facilitated by the security forces,” Rayes said.
It’s not clear what facts Rayes was basing his comments on or if it was some sort of maneuver so as not anger de Mistura and the international delegates present. One of the problems in the Arab world is the excessive paranoia of dictators and the use of delusional conspiracy theories, misleading the masses as they spread large scale misinformation. This became especially evident in the Arab Spring, who could forget the conspiracy theories spread by the likes of Muammar Al-Gaddafi and Bashar Al-Assad when people took up to the streets demanding their rights and eventually turned to armed resistance when those demands were brutally denied. Tyrant regimes deliberately kept ignoring the obvious correlation between cause and effect; oppress people long enough and they will rise and resist your oppression. Such ostrich behavior is expected from tyrant regimes, but this should not be the behavior of someone who purports to negotiate on behalf of a nation of suffering people looking for a new future.
Each and every peace conference from the “Friends of Syria” (remember them?) several years ago to the current talks in Geneva, has focused on ignoring the reality that Islamic forces are on the ground and are a major player. This wilful ignorance has made a lasting and fair representation from the rebel side impossible, thus rendering any hope in a peace negotiation impossible as well. In the end HTS is a major force in northern Syria and the notion that any agreement in Geneva is enforceable without their consent is not in touch with reality.