“You don’t have to invade Syria or commit large numbers of troops to defending us. To break the Syria army’s loyalty for Bashar Assad, nothing more is needed than a small village, such as Garganaz near Idlib in northern Syria, to be declared a safe haven under US protection against attack, said Prof. George Sabra to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of the second Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul Sunday, April 1.
Sabra was chosen by the umbrella Syrian National Council to put the unified opposition case before Secretary Clinton because he had escaped from Damascus only a few days earlier with the most up-to-date news of events there.
The professor, a Christian Orthodox, is respected as a non-political figure with no personal ambitions.
Garganaz, a village of 1,000 souls, sits at the hub of a group of villages that includes Alghadaka, Talmans, Maarshamareen and Maarshoryen. In his appeal to Clinton, the professor tried explaining why singling it out as a US- protected enclave would be effective.
The Syrian army is on the verge of falling apart, he reported. It is kept going mainly by the weakness of the Syrian Free Army which is seriously under-armed. If the opposition could set up even a small focus of resistance and place it out of bounds to Syrian troops, this could reverse the tide.
debkafile sources, talking to US and Syrian circles with access to the content of this critical conversation between Secretary Clinton and Prof. Sabra, say he made five more points:
1. Syria’s Christian minority (11 percent of the population) will not abandon Assad without being sure of immediate Western intervention;
2. The revolt against the Assad regime failed largely because the opposition lacked a symbolic, unifying leader.
3. Syrian tanks have trampled every emblem of the uprising from Deraa in the south up to Homs in the north. The US must not abandon the uprising at this most critical juncture of the conflict but go forward and help fashion a symbol of resistance which is off limits to those tanks.
4. Weapons aid to the rebels must not be identified as Saudi or Qatari. Assad’s propagandists presents the opposition as supported by foreign "terrorists" which is an affront to Syrian national pride.
5. US diplomacy could make itself useful by interceding with the heads of the autonomous Kurdish republic Iraq to stop collaborating with Assad and keeping the Kurdish communities of Damascus and Aleppo (some 150,000) out of the uprising. If the Kurds pitched into the revolt, those cities would finally rise up against the Assad regime.
Our sources report that Clinton was unmoved by Prof. Sabra’s appeal and made no adjustments to the positions she brought with her.
“The US will create an umbrella group to tighten sanctions,” she said in conclusion of the second Friends of Syria conference, “increase funding for humanitarian aid, supply opposition forces with communications gear and create a group to monitor Syrian atrocities so that members of the regime can eventually be held accountable for the violence there.”
The meeting fell short of recognizing the SNC as the opposition's legitimate representative.
The 83-nation gathering therefore changed nothing. Ten months ago, on July 26, 2011, the United States secretly supplied Syrian opposition leaders with satellite telephones for their centers to communicate safe from eavesdropping by Assad’s Iranian and Russian intelligence helpers. Those telephones didn’t stop Assad’s tanks in the past, say the cynics.
Assad for his part is up to his usual tricks of accepting but not implementing the six-point peace plan put forward by UN envoy Kofi Annan. He has no intention of withdrawing from towns and cities or allowing humanitarian access.