Today as Damascus explodes into violence, another key move was taking place in the north of the country. Members of Free Syrian Army (FSA) took control of the Bab al Hawa border crossing between Turkey and Syria as well as others along the border. This could prove an important move for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in their fight against the Assad regime.
Bab al Hawa is one of Syria’s major border crossings with Turkey and a key route for supplies and trade between the two countries. Travelling across Bab al Hawa in late 2010, I remember seeing lines of trucks for 4km on the Turkish side. Inside, between Syria and Turkey, the situation was equally hectic and while waiting to find a way through the lines of trucks, my taxi driver told me that the crossing was used so much that trucks were sometimes waiting for over a day before crossing.
Today, Footage of the captured Bab al Hawa crossing point shows a very different picture. It is empty, Syrian border guards apparently deserting their posts, there is virtually no border traffic and a lone FSA fighter is defacing an official portrait of President Assad, unthinkable at the time of my crossing.
However, with this move of attempting to control Syria’s borders, the FSA could gain a significant advantage in the fighting in Syria. Controlling key links to Turkey, they can now dictate what comes into Syria. No longer will weapons and supplies need to be smuggled down winding routes on the border, exposed to fire from the Syrian Army. Now, the FSA can be directly armed, with weapons waved through Bab al Hawa and other posts with no threat of punishment from the Syrian authorities. This could quickly allow the FSA to rapidly gain the much needed weapons and supplies to match the Syrian army’s firepower. If the FSA army can repeat this with other borders posts (as it is doing), especially with Lebanon and Jordan, this action could have a larger effect on pressuring the Assad regime economically than any Western sanctions would.
J Robinson – Twitter @jprobinsons