Syria – fighting among opposition groups

An article in the Guardian, “Syrian rebels sidetracked by scramble for spoils of war”, describes a situation in which Syrian rebel militia have become more concentrated on attaining so-called war loot than fighting the regime. The loot is comprised of military supplies and vehicles captured from the regime. These supplies and vehicles are crucial to the military activities of the different militia groups fighting the regime.

Lacking a central command structure the militia groups each rely on what they themselves can capture in the way of tanks and guns and ammunition. Competition for this loot arises and militia battle for the loot. The more loot a militia group is in possession of, the more people it can recruit. And the more people and military supplies in its possession, the more power it can employ.

Foreign donors also give rise to rivalries among the groups, since donors are a source of resources that empower the respective groups. The article provides a detailed look at how the economics of this war play out:

“In the chaotic economics of the war, everything has become a commodity. Abu Ismael’s unit, for example, took a supply of diesel from a school compound, and every day his unit exchanges a few jerrycans of the precious liquid for bread.

Because Abu Ismael has a supply of food and fuel his battalion is more desirable than others in the sector. Commanders who are unable to feed their men tend to lose them; they desert and join other groups.

Bullets are equally important. When military installations and warehouses are looted the battalion that captures ammunition grows by cannibalising smaller, less well-equipped units that have no bullets to hand.”

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