Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Does Assad Love the Smell of Mourning in the Victory?

While Assad had earlier referred to the pending fall of Aleppo as a turning point in the war, I disagreed with that assessment. Assad has to hold the city and even with the city still only has a corner of Syria. The Syrians do seem to appreciate this problem:

"Certainly it is not the end of the war ... But when you take Aleppo, you control 90 percent of the fertile areas of Syria, the regions that hold the cities and markets, the populated regions," said a senior pro-Damascus official in the region.

However, the battlefield victories that seem - for now - to have secured Assad's rule have been won in large part not by his own depleted military, but by Russian warplanes and a shock force of foreign Shi'ite militias backed by Iran.

That percentage is rot, but you get the idea. The west is the core of Syria.

How will Assad take the rest of Syria if the rebels don't collapse? Even if America does the work of killing ISIL for Assad, there are Arab rebels in the west and Kurds in the northern strip. We are supporting Arabs in the mostly Kurdish drive on Raqqa.

And I doubt that Arab states concerned about Iranian influence will stand down from their support for rebels (including those we don't like) and give Iran and Assad a victory.

Nor do I think the Turks are eager to have Assad win this civil war.

I read that ISIL was able to recapture Palmyra because government attention was focused on the battle for Aleppo (and since the fall of the city, the Russians are sending troops from Aleppo to Palmyra). This perhaps speaks of the scarcity of mobile forces on Assad's side, where most government forces--like most rebel forces--are local self defense forces.

Early in the fighting before this conflict settled into a civil war, I wrote that Assad couldn't control the entire country with the military he had available.

And the Syrian military has gotten far worse since then. Despite the Russian and Iranian help that has kept Assad afloat that he may have to seriously consider abandoning Damascus and moving the capital to Latakia to make a stand in a rump Syria.

Victory or not at Aleppo--and I doubt we are at the last Battle for Aleppo--Assad is faced with the fact that Syria is in a post-Assad phase already.

As for Russia? Help them flail and fail.