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Thursday, August 09, 2012 

When is a withdrawal not a retreat?

When it's the Free Syrian Army performing it, of course. You can at least understand why those journalists that have got into Syria and managed to embed themselves with the FSA are very reluctant to criticise their hosts: apart from earlier occasions when it seemed as though the FSA was trying to get journalists killed, more recently they've been threatening to murder those whose allegiance they aren't certain about.

For those wondering what Ed Husain is up to these days (i.e. none of you), then it seems he's got a plum job at the Council on Foreign Relations. His verdict on the situation isn't just that al-Qaida is infiltrating into Syria and joining up with the FSA, but that the FSA actively needs al-Qaida to avoid being overwhelmed. That this poses something of a problem for us back here in the West, keen as we are to either provide further "non-lethal" support (our good selves) or weapons through Turkish intermediaries (the US) to the FSA is something Ed says we shouldn't worry about for the minute. No, we should simply plan "to minimize" al-Qaida's influence over the rebel groups, and of course, make contingencies for seizing Assad's chemical weapons should the regime fall. Don't worry, it will all work out fine.

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