Saturday, December 29, 2012

Compare and Contrast

Assad is losing his war. Baathists are going to be 0-2 when his side goes down.

After less than two years of war, Syrian rebels are pushing the government's forces out of more and more territory, eroding the government's military, and capturing bases. Contrast this to the Iraq War where the insurgencies and terrorists could not generally prevent government and coalition forces from moving wherever they wanted, terrorist enclaves that did develop were eventually recaptured, the government's forces generally grew during the conflict and gained competence, and attacks on bases were always unsuccessful and only designed to be media operations.

And also remember that the insurgents in Iraq had lots of money and access to an Iraq awash in arms and explosives left over from Saddam's buying sprees; while the Syrian rebels have been fairly poorly armed until recently.

Anyway, a Syrian base is in danger of being overrun:

Syrian rebels stepped up their siege of a military base in north of the country Friday as government warplanes bombed surrounding areas to support the defenders, activists said.

The fighting around Mannagh airbase near the Turkish border came as foreign ministry officials in Ankara said two Syrian air force generals had defected and crossed the border.

Surely it is becoming obvious to the Assad people that they can't win the way they are fighting. Eventually, the army will break or the Assad base of civilian support will break as defeat looms and people try to strike a deal with the eventual winners.

Even the Russians have sternly warned the Syrian government not to use chemical weapons in a last ditch--and futile--effort to save their regime:

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview released by the English-language state television channel RT that Assad had given Moscow repeated assurances he had no plans to order such an attack.

"I do not believe Syria would use chemical weapons," Lavrov said in comments translated by the channel into English. "It would be a political suicide for the government if it does."

So Assad can't find a miracle weapon to win the war he is in. Assad's people need a whole new war that they can win.

Part of waging that new war may require a ceasefire to regroup, rest, and rearm. Perhaps Assad really does need to negotiate with the rebels to establish a decentralized Syria where Assad rules a rump Alawite state where he withdraws most movable assets to keep them under control. Then give the rebels the other provinces while establishing a coalition national government with few real powers save the UN seat privilege and postage stamp concession.

We keep speaking of post-Assad Syria. Perhaps we should be thinking about post-Syria Assad. Perhaps Assad should be thinking of that, if he wants to live.

Although if the Sunni Arab win in Syria inspires Iraqi Sunnis to think they can restart their war against the Shia-dominated government, we might have a rematch in Iraq. I wonder if Iran will want to spend the money it spent on Assad to support Maliki's government? At least Iran would likely be on the winning side, there. The least bad option for us would be for our air power, intelligence, and special forces to re-engage in Iraq to support the Iraqi security forces.

I hope the super genius Secretary of State we are going to have can persuade the Sunni Arabs of Iraq that restarting the war in Iraq is too stupid to contemplate.

UPDATE: Despite lack of arms, rebels are estimated to be inflicting a thousand dead per month on the Syrian army:

The regime also has suffered setbacks on the battlefield, as its forces lose ground across all but two of the country’s 14 provinces. Military analysts say Syrian troops are being killed at a rate of about 1,000 a month, and even elite units appear to have lost the ability to mount sustained offensives.

Good God. We never lost more than a thousand in a year of combat in Iraq. I think the highest Iraqi toll in a month was a bit over 300 dead security forces. And usually it was a lot less.

If Assad keeps spinning his wheels, his army won't be able to fight any type of war. He has to decide fast to do something different.