Assad's forces, spearheaded by Iran's Shia foreign legion and Hezbollah and supported by Russia airpower, continues to make gains around Aleppo:
The Syrian army has retaken [the village of al-Tamura ] that overlooks major rebel-held towns around Aleppo, state television said on Saturday, part of a government campaign to encircle and recaptured insurgent areas of the major northern city.
I freely admit this puzzles me. I figured the offensive in the north was all about rescuing besieged Assad supporters up there rather than an effort to seriously take and hold territory.
I continue to believe that if Assad captures Aleppo that he doesn't have the troops to hold the city and territory around it. Especially once the pro-Assad foreign shock troops who still have the stomach to fight move on to another sector of the war.
Remember, the Syrian forces aren't that good if this can happen:
An ambush by Syrian rebels on pro-regime forces near Damascus this week killed 76 fighters, a monitor said Saturday, in one of the deadliest attacks of its kind since the conflict began.
Militants from the powerful Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) rebel group opened fire last Sunday on around 240 government forces that were preparing to storm the opposition stronghold of Eastern Ghouta, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
It is unclear what type of forces these were. The story leaves me to conclude that they aren't foreigners but doesn't say they are army. They are likely Syrian self-defense militias, because the article says the families are from Latakia--a stronghold of the regime's support.
But the important thing is the scale of the ambush. In our years in Iraq we never experienced anything that bad. That could be the casualty rate for a two-week period--at the height of the surge offensive--and many months were far less than that.
If Assad's enemies can adapt from holding ground they've stood on for years to go down the escalation ladder to insurgency, they can continue the fight and put more stress on the already shaken Syrian army that has taken huge (excuse the term) casualties already in this war, and which will need to stretch out even more to hold these gains.
So talk of Assad winning is way premature:
Kerry, who has prided himself on his close relationship with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, then called on Moscow to “join in the effort to bring about an immediate ceasefire and … full humanitarian access” to more than half a million Syrians under siege, primarily by forces supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Kerry will make one more effort to shame Russia into stopping the bombardment when he meets with Lavrov again on the sidelines of this week’s Munich Security Conference.
It seems unlikely that the Russians will comply. Fred Hof, a former State Department official who sought to organize moderate forces opposed to Assad during President Barack Obama’s first term, said Tuesday that “the prospect of a Russian-supported regime military victory in northwest Syria are quite good.”
Speaking at an event at the Atlantic Council, Hof predicted that the Russia-Iran-Assad coalition would next turn its attention to southwest Syria, triggering another mass civilian exodus toward Jordan, which is already struggling to deal with tens of thousands of Syrian refugees.
Sure, Assad is winning now in the northwest with foreign shock troops to spearhead the advance. But if Assad wants to turn to the southwest, those shock troops will go, leaving Assad's less than resolute second-raters to hold the gains. Even with Russian air power, these guys will take casualties as the rebels (and terrorists) recover from the pounding.
And allow me in an aside to laugh that Secretary of State Kerry takes pride in close relations with Russia's Lavrov. If I was Lavrov, I'd take every call from Kerry ASAP considering I manage to take Kerry's lunch money and give him a diplomatic wedgy every time they match wits!
God help us all, but they really think this is smart diplomacy.
And they think this is deep thinking:
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is "deluded" if he thinks there is a military solution to the war in Syria, nearly five years into a brutal conflict that has killed more than 260,000 people, a US official said.
In an abstract sense, yes, a military solution will not solve the problem of most Syrians hating the Assad regime.
But a military response is the first and most important element of achieving that broader settlement. If Assad's forces can hammer the rebels enough to break their morale to resist before the government forces and their minority of supporters break, you are damned right that a military solution will solve the problem--for a generation, anyway as the people who hate Assad are too broken to fight on.
And trust me, that will be enough of a victory for Assad and Russia, notwithstanding the failure to have a total resolution of the basis of the conflict. The White House is deluded if they think otherwise.
The Turks suffer no similar delusion about the worthlessness of military power to shape outcomes.
UPDATE: "A mini world war rages in the fields of Aleppo":
Russian warplanes are bombing from the sky. Iraqi and Lebanese militias aided by Iranian advisers are advancing on the ground. An assortment of Syrian rebels backed by the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are fighting to hold them back. Kurdish forces allied both to Washington and Moscow are taking advantage of the chaos to extend Kurdish territories. The Islamic State has snatched a couple of small villages, while all the focus was on the other groups.
I just thank God we didn't militarize the conflict by trying to decisively intervene against Assad four years ago.
UPDATE: And of course, behold the strategery--and the left-wing media's refusal to report on the stupid:
With refugees destabilizing the European Union, the Turks writing off the value of NATO, the Kurds considering a shift to Russia rather than the U.S., ISIS quietly rejoicing as its enemies turn against one another, the Sunni Gulf powers taking more risks and increasing their distance from the U.S., the situation in the Middle East is growing more dire and more dangerous by the week. ...
Fortunately for President Obama’s short-term peace of mind, but tragically from the standpoint of Middle East peace, the plight of the Syrians and the President’s historical standing, the press is sticking to its standard “don’t connect the dots” approach when it comes to reporting on President Obama’s failures in office.
This diplomacy smarts all right.
UPDATE: Not that I'd ever argue that the anti-Assad forces holding Aleppo are good guys. But I wanted us to get rid of Assad by supporting the rebels years ago, which could have preempted the rise of ISIL and put us in the position of now focusing on jihadis without the side effect of keeping the butcher Assad regime in power.