Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Assad will lose control of Aleppo. And possibly break his army in the process.

From the beginning when Assad committed forces to securing the largest city of Aleppo, near the Turkish border, I wrote that it was a mistake. Even if successfully captured, Assad doesn't have enough troops to control such a large city.

Worse, even if Assad can commit sufficient forces to defeat the rebels and then pacify the city, insufficient loyalist troops means that supply lines to the city will lack the loyalist troops to be secure. Syrian rebels are already causing supply problems for Assad's forces trying to hold cities:

For two weeks they have surrounded and attacked Wadi al-Deif, east of the town of Maarat al-Numan. They say the ferocity of counter-attacks by government forces shows how important holding the base is to the president's military strategy. ...

His overstretched army has lost swathes of territory and relies on air power to keep rebels at bay.

If Wadi al-Daif fell to rebels, who already control northern border crossings to Turkey, Assad would be dependent on a single land route - from the Mediterranean port of Latakia - to supply his forces fighting to win back Aleppo, Syria's biggest city. ...

Maarat al-Numan has already fallen to Assad's opponents, effectively cutting the Aleppo highway. But without control of the nearby military base, their hold over the road is tenuous. ...

The army has resorted to supplying Wadi al-Deif by air, dropping bread and other food supplies from helicopters.

But its efforts to send military reinforcements have been repulsed by the besieging rebels. The last attempt on Sunday ended when four tanks were destroyed and the remnants of an army column had to pull back. "We have noticed that the best strategy is to hit its supply line. We have been harming the regime a lot by hitting the reinforcements it is sending."

Hmood said that if rebels could take the base and secure the highway, they could intensify efforts to cut Assad's second main supply line to the north - the road from Latakia to Aleppo that passes through the town of Jisr al-Shughour.

Assad is fighting for a prestige objective that will be a major loss if he loses the battle, but which actually harms him if he wins the battle.

Assad would have been better off evacuating the people who support him from Aleppo and wrecking the city in a scorched earth retreat south to hold a Core Syria. But by now, Assad's forces have shrunk below what I assumed Assad could deploy. At best, Assad can hold the Alawite coastal areas plus an inland buffer zone out to the main north-south highway between Aleppo and Damascus--specifically from Idlib down to Homs.