As Libyans celebrate their first general election after the rein of col. Moammar Gaddafi, Syrians are still wondering what's next with all the complications surrounding the fate of both the revolution and the regime, thanks to the diversity of each side's alliances, and mainly because of the sectarian lineups which many warn could lead to an unprecedented civil war.
Both Libya and Syria had a long path to walk; despite the militarization of both revolutions from the beginning, the numbers of people killed were dramatically more than Tunisia and Egypt. Even those of Yemen are still far behind the toll that isn’t expected to tap a finish point in the near future.
In Libya where I covered the revolution early enough to see the rebels moving from city to city in the eastern part of the country, I witnessed the evolution of their military capabilities that were less effective in direct encounters with the Gaddafi brigades.
Gaddafi's assault on Benghazi on March 18 was a clear indicator that the rebels needed NATO strikes to survive the fight- and were it not for the airstrikes their task would have been much harder; some might say impossible.
Libyan rebels weren’t able to move from one town to another without aerial cover, for many reasons. One is the lack of training and the absence of military experience. They were mostly young men who left their schools and businesses to fight for freedom using Kalashnikovs, RPGs, and AA's mounted on trucks All they had in sight was putting an end to 42 years of dictatorship, where one man named Moammar Gaddafi had the entirety of a country like Libya under his arm.
One of the clearest examples of lack of effectiveness was the day rebels entered Ajdabiya in late March 2011. After one week of fighting that didn’t come to an end till Gaddafi posts were erased by NATO airstrikes, rebels started moving from town to town without any serious resistance till they arrived at the outskirts of Sirte, Gaddafi's stronghold. After driving more than 300KM, I was there giving a live interview to my channel when it started raining Katyusha rockets, the closest to me was a mere 100m away. We packed and ran for our lives, and so did the rebels, causing traffic jam. This was because NATO decided not to intervene on that occasion.
Days after returning from Libya, I had to cover the Syrian revolution from the Lebanese side of the border in late April. What I saw was a clear indication that the peaceful movement that had started only a month before was going deep into the militarization, but here, it's no Libya.
Syrians are known to have a strong army, and every young man must serve two years as part of the compulsory military duty, the matter which makes most Syrian men trained soldiers even if they are not actively in the service. Besides, in the Levant, it's common to have weapons at home. This is part of the tribal and cultural belief that guns are essential for preserving dignity.
The rebels of Syria were quick in forming their armed groups, later known as the Free Syrian Army that was formed by defectors, providing an umbrella for all fighters to operate under. The FSA and its allies were able to secure some areas on the borders with Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey as safe pockets and took the city of Homs as headquarter.
All this happened without foreign intervention or a no-fly zone. The Syrian rebels, mostly Sunni Muslims, continued their struggle to topple the Alawite regime lead by Bachar Assad, and with time, their tools started getting more sophisticated, due primarily to the defections, and to arms smuggling and financial support from several Arab states.
Weapons in the hands of Syrian rebels now vary, from Kalashnikov to anti-tank missiles, along with advanced road bombs, Anti-aircraft and heavy machine guns mounted on trucks. Yet the most dangerous part is still to come as fears grow that groups affiliated to Al-Qaida from within the revolution, or others who are pro regime like Hezbollah, might get access to strategic weapons acquired by the Syrian Army, weapons like long range missiles and chemical war heads. If this happens, then the path of the revolution, Syria, and the whole region will change, and the international alliance to topple the regime will change its objectives, and we will be faced with a new war on terrorism, this time directly on the borders with Israel.