Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Still Losing the War

I think Assad's forces are wearing out and that the rebels are slowly grinding away at areas the government controls. The infusion of militias on the side of the government is likely to be a sugar-high that will burn out fairly quickly if they are committed to heavy combat.

The funny thing is that during the Iraq War, the media often called the war stalemated and would then say that if our side wasn't winning, then the insurgents were winning. I thought that the correlation of forces was working in our favor as we built up government forces and ground down the enemy. We did win, so clearly the insurgents weren't winning.

Now, the media often calls the fighting in Syria stalemated. Like here, when reporting on the rebels shooting down a government helicopter:

The downing of the helicopter was a welcome victory for rebels fighting to oust Assad as the two sides remain locked in stalemate in the more than 2-year-old conflict.

Funny that nobody then hastens to add that a stalemate means the rebels are winning. No. Just stalemate. As in Assad isn't going anywhere and the rebels can't hope to win.

Assad might yet be able to ethnically cleanse a portion of Syria that will have a population low enough for his limited (and tired) forces to control, but he's already given up on holding all of Syria.

The deployment of Iranian-trained militias could have been a good thing to change Assad's fortunes. But only if they were used to garrison areas to free up regular army troops to fight the rebels. But using these ill-trained but vicious militias as the offensive arm of the regime will not only anger rebel sympathizers but use up the poorly trained troops fairly rapidly. When the are used up, the rebels will be more eager for revenge. And the Alawites might not be so eager to join government militias that seem to get shot up in the war.

Further, even if Assad can defend his new realm, affording a war to hold a rump mini-state that has lost a lot of income-producing areas is going to require Assad to mortgage his state to Iran, and possibly Russia and China. Shoot, even Hezbollah is getting a piece of the action.

Unless something dramatic takes place to change the vectors, Assad is losing this war.