Six bloody years, and no end end in sight, and in the case of Syria, what may be read as yet another cliche, is simply and so tragically, a very grim reality. Still, even as the carnage seems to continue unrelentingly, there are some important new elements emerging, which may change the overall scene, in a way hitherto unexpected.
To start with, in the last few days, there has been fighting in Damascus itself, the capital of the state still formally called Syria. It is one thing to have fighting in the remote North East, or in any other region far from Damascus. It is another thing to find out, that under the nose of Armored Division no. 4 and the Elite Republican Guard, the most important Alawite-dominated units of what is left of once much larger Syrian army, the rebels, be them from the Free Syrian Army , Ahrar Al Sham, or any other Sunni faction, managed to pull out a Tet-like Syrian surprise. The very fact, that it could happen proves, how tenuous the hold of the regime is even in areas considered safe, but also it is an indication, that the Sunni population supports the rebels, much the same as the Vietcong was supported by the locals during Tet in January 1968, or the Polish AK was by their people when they surprised the Nazis in August 1944.
The fighting is focused on the Eastern sections of Damascus, Qabun and Jubar suburbs, where the rebels wanted to create a contiguous area under their control. The counterattack of Assad’s forces may have held them back, or not, as there are fresh reports about rebel advance towards the neighborhood of Al Abassyin, which is in Central Damascus, but fighting continues despite over 200 aerial attacks by Assad air force and the Russians. So, the once proud Syrian ruler has to indiscriminately bombard his own capital in order to maintain whatever level of control he still has. By many reports, the rebels use better and more sophisticated weapons, including using cyber weapons, and the Syrian army is finding itself engaged in a type of warfare not used until now. In order to effectively fight back, the Assad regime has to call for its help more Hizballah and other Sh’ite units, and issues of lack of coordination between the guest militias and the Alawite army have imploded into at least one lethal collision between the two forces. Assad, as explained in this blog, has huge manpower problems, in fact only one, and what a problem-he lacks enough Alawites to conduct the war, as Alawite militias are also mobilized to defend their home ground in Northwest Syria.
Relying on the foreign occupying Shi’ite militias in Damascus is a Catch 22 situation for Assad. He needs them, but then, the local Sunni population grows more and more resentful of the regime-a sure recipe for more future troubles. The rebels being fully aware of the acute human power shortages of the regime, have opened new fronts to Assad in last few days, in Hamah, Homs and more importantly in the very significant strategic Kalamoun area, on the border with Lebanon, where Assad keeps most of his Scad ground to ground brigades. I cannot even remember the number of times, when the regime has declared, that Kalamoun is under its complete control. Here is THE biggest problem of Assad- he simply cannot totally eradicate the rebels, because they are the majority of the population and even areas occupied by his troops need to be permanently held as if being foreign occupied territories.
On the same token, here is THE problem of the rebels-they do not have, at least not yet, either the type of weapons, the internal organization and overall cooperation needed to defeat Assad. They have enough to keep the fighting going, he has enough to keep the fighting going, in sum, a classic draw, a situation which bodes very ill to the Syrian population. More destruction, more ethnic cleansing. It bodes ill also to the neighboring countries and to Europe-much more fleeing of huge numbers of Syrians from their wretched country.
Sure enough, there is the option of a decisive end to all that, either by the Russians, for example, committing much more of their air force and ground forces to the task-no sign of it happening, or maybe the US-again, no sign of that happening. The bloodbath will continue . Tragic!