As the battle for Aleppo continues, Syrian rebels and President Bashar al-Assad are ramping up outreach to their respective allies. On Tuesday, the army continued shelling rebel-controlled neighborhoods in Syria's second city while in neighboring Jordan, recently defected ex-Prime Minister Riyad Farid Hjia claimed the military was on its last legs. “Based on my experience and my position, the regime is falling apart morally, materially, economically,” the former Assad ally told reporters in Amman. “Its military is rusting and it only controls 30 percent of Syria’s territory.” Given the precariousness of the conflict, both sides are looking to outsiders to tip the scales in their favor. Here's what's developing today.
Syrian rebels tap veteran Libyan fighters In an interesting tag team, Reuters' Mariam Karouny reports that fighters from last year's civil war in Libya have joined the front lines of the battle to overthrow Assad. The report follows a Libyan-Irish fighter who fights in a rebel unit made up of Syrians, foreign fighters and 20 "senior members" of a Libyan unit that helped overthrow Muammar Qaddafi. Apparently, the Libyans have been a great help:
The Libyans aiding the Syrian rebels include specialists in communications, logistics, humanitarian issues and heavy weapons, he said. They operate training bases, teaching fitness and battlefield tactics.
Najjar said he was surprised to find how poorly armed and disorganized the Syrian rebels were, describing Syria's Sunni Muslim majority as far more repressed and downtrodden under Assad than Libyans were under Gaddafi.
"I was shocked. There is nothing you are told that can prepare you for what you see. The state of the Sunni Muslims there - their state of mind, their fate - all of those things have been slowly corroded over time by the regime."
But the rebels aren't the only ones with friends.
Assad aide flies to China This morning, the BBC reports that Assad has sent his senior aidee, Bouthaina Shaaban, to meet China's Foreign Minister Yan Jiechi. According to the BBC, the stated rationale for the meeting is find a way to "implement the UN's six-point peace plan." But nobody buys that at face value because the UN peace plan has been roundly abandoned by pretty much everyone (most importantly: Assand and the rebels). So what is China doing? For now, it has shown no signs of changing its position on Syria, which amounts to vetoing UN resolutions condemning Assad's crackdown. According to the BBC, "Correspondents say [China] wants to deflect criticism and show it is trying to develop a political solution to the Syrian crisis."
Meanwhile, the government that could really tip the scales in the fighting has not yet authorized the creation of a no-fly zone: The U.S. According to The New York Times' Damien Cave, the rebels continue to appeal to the U.S. to establish the no-fly zone as Assad's air superiority continues to wreak havoc. Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton floated the idea of a no-fly zone, however, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the option is "not on the front burner." (Establishing such a zone involves a number of risks considering Syria's significant air defenses.)