Syrian army defenders folded quickly at their last city in Idlib province:
The Syrian army has pulled back from the northwestern city of Ariha after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the last city in Idlib province in northwestern Syria near the Turkish border that was still held by the government.
Assad is running out of buffer zone for his Alawite home turf:
The loss of Ariha would leave the insurgents in control of most of Idlib a region that borders Turkey and neighbors President Assad's heartland in Latakia province on the Mediterranean coast.
And those jihadi rebels appear to be exploiting their success:
A Syrian insurgent alliance which has captured the last government-held town in the northwestern Idlib province made further advances on Friday, a monitoring group and fighters said.
I've long thought that Assad didn't have the horses to hold so much territory. But I have my doubts that a military that has suffered so many casualties trying to hold so much of Syria the last three years has the fortitude--when Syria is just a zombie state--to pull back and try to hold a smaller perimeter--perhaps not even including Damascus.
Pity we didn't start arming and supporting non-jihadi rebels 3-1/2 years ago so there would be an alternative to jihadis sweeping through Assad's lines.
But back then, the administration didn't think it was wise to "militarize" the struggle against Assad.
I don't know. But it sure feels like the Syrian government defeats are coming more frequently and with less evidence of a will to fight by Assad's troops.
Is a major breakdown in Assad's security forces building? It sure feels that way.
I'd expect the Syrians still foolishly trying to fight for Aleppo to be looking nervously over their shoulders wondering about their supply lines now. If there is a first crack, I think a run south while they can by the Aleppo region forces is as good a place to look as any.
God help the Syrians if the Turks don't commit a multi-corps ground force to cope with a jihadi breakthrough and Assad collapse.
UPDATE: Syria has launched bombing raids at Aleppo:
Syrian army airstrikes killed at least 70 people, most of them civilians, and wounded scores in attacks Saturday in the northern province of Aleppo that struck civilian areas, including a packed market in a town held by the Islamic State group, activists said.
The deaths occurred in two separate incidents when helicopters dropped explosives-filled barrels.
Is this bombing an effort to hold in the region, knock back the enemy prior to retreating, or just revenge as part of one of the first two options?
UPDATE: Jihadis are on the offensive but the United States accuses Assad of supporting ISIL's attacks on other rebels.
Assad my count on America rescuing him by getting us to attack ISIL more and by rescuing Iran who can then support Assad more, but how long can Assad's forces bleed at the astounding rate they are dying?
"For every 100 soldiers lost by the regime, there are not 100 more coming in," the diplomat said.
That's a problem if Assad wants to hold the line somewhere.
UPDATE: ISIL's offensives in the northwest conveniently relieve rebel pressure on both Aleppo and Idlib province:
The Islamic State's attack against northern Aleppo also serves the interests of the Syrian government in two ways. First, it has forced Syrian rebels to delay an impending offensive against loyalist forces in the province. Over the past few months, the Aleppo front has been relatively quiet, and rebels in the region have been gearing up for an assault on government-held positions in and around the city. ...
Second, the Islamic State's push into Aleppo has prompted Jaish al-Fatah, the rebel group responsible for repeated victories against government forces in Idlib province, to reallocate a considerable number of its fighters to the Aleppo front to reinforce their beleaguered allies.
If Assad is cooperating with ISIL for this relief, it is a dangerous game given ISIL's advances elsewhere. Assad may be trying to draw to an inside straight to get American air power support against ISIL and a general deal that sees Assad as the lesser of two evils.