Sunday, January 07, 2018

Is Hope Dying in Syria?

Assad's offensive into northwestern Idlib province which is the largest rebel-held area in western Syria seems to be going smoothly:

Rapid advances by the Syrian army into rebels' largest remaining stronghold, Idlib province, have brought it closer to a key insurgent-held military airport and displaced tens of thousands of people struggling to find shelter in winter weather.

Supported by Iran-backed militias and Russian air power, President Bashar al-Assad's forces have taken territory in northeastern Hama and southern Idlib provinces since beginning an offensive in late October.

If Syria takes that territory the civil war is basically over because rebels in other areas will be all alone to endure Assad's firepower even if Iran cuts back on direct support to deal with problems at home.

If Syria fails, all those separate rebel enclaves could continue to hold out as they have so far.

Of course, even if Assad wins this northern campaign it could be that rebels will return to insurgency until they can climb back up the escalation ladder to again control territory.

Geopolitical Futures doesn't think the civil war is over. They believe the civil war was suspended during the ISIL era. And now the civil war will resume. This certainly fits with my description of the situation during the ISIL caliphate era as a multi-war. But with that phase over does the civil war resume or does it devolve into rebellion?

Do the rebels have enough hope or fear to continue to fight as insurgents if worse comes to worse? Or are they too exhausted and too isolated from foreign help to keep opposing Assad if Assad deprives them of their Idlib bastion?

Hope can die.

I'm just so happy we didn't further militarize the conflict back in 2012 by actively trying to overthrow Assad when he was at his weakest.

Ah, Smart Diplomacy.

UPDATE: Strategypage has more on the war that won't end. Best guess of 400,000 dead on all sides. With bonus material on Iran.

It seems like Strategypage posts on Syria go from "the war is over and Assad won" to "the war continues," perhaps depending on who is writing. I don't think Assad has won yet. And even if his forces crush the rebel-held areas, there could still be an insurgency.

In related news from that post, rebels used mortars to hit Russian airplanes at an air base. Early on I suggested portable mortars and rocket artillery to bombard air bases as an alternative to portable air defense missiles to take out government aircraft.

UPDATE: Rebels (which includes non-ISIL jihadis) claim to be counter-attacking. In any event, fighting still rages.

One interesting item is that Assad's forces are trying to clear a line of supply to Aleppo.

For years now there had been a thread of government control looping to Aleppo from the southeast and I always wondered by rebels didn't target that. I always assumed it was too open to really block.

Whatever the status of that route is, the government wants another land route into Aleppo.

As long as I'm wondering, why aren't rebels infiltrating Aleppo to resist Assad's control? I thought there would be reports of that by now.

Although perhaps in more specialized media there are mentions of that kind of development.