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Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Current Military Situation in Syria

The MainStream Left [MSL] has been very vocally demanding that the United States do absolutely nothing to help the people being slaughtered by the murderous Assad regime. As if!

As if Obama and the Imperialists are in the habit of stopping dictators from slaughtering their own people. When have they ever stopped a massacre? They didn't stop Rwanda. They didn't stop Darfur. They didn't stop Pinochet in Chile. They didn't stop Saddam Hussein from gassing the Kurds, in fact, they supplied the gas. They only stopped Qaddafi because they needed the oil. They don't need the MSL to tell them to pay no-never-mine to Assad's chemical attacks and they don't need the MSL demanding a policy of non-intervention in the case of the slaughter presently going on in Syria.

The NATO "allies" may have talked a good game of supporting the Syrian people, that scared the Left and caused it to turn its back on the Syrian revolution, but NATO never really had any intention of helping the revolution. Especially since helping the Libyan rebels bought them very little in the way of control or plunder in that North African country. After all, NATO has bases all over Africa, but none in Libya. The ingrates!

So the sad truth is that the Syrian people will have to fight and win their revolution on their own. They may get some help from other Arab governments, the Libyan Congress is currently debating a bill that would give them $100 million, and there are others that will contribute money and even come and fight alongside their Syrian brothers and sisters, but there will be no NATO equivalent to the kind of support Assad is receiving from Russia and Iran.

Given that harsh reality, the UN report that 5,000 people a month are dying, and fact that Assad won't stop killing until he has killed all his opposition or is put down, this would seem to be a good time to take a new look at the military situation.

The Current Military Situation

Scott Lucas, writing at the new EAWorldView site, critqued the current Main Stream Media line on the Syria situations, saying:
Assad is Not “Winning”
The New York Times blares, “Momentum Shifts in Syria, Bolstering Assad’s Position”, even as the only analyst cited in the article, Hassan Hassan, notes, “[The regime] is not capable of winning back the country.”

In the Washington Post, the Associated Press — relying on no more than a superficial scan of events, a 29-year-old woman in Homs, and the PR lines of General Salem Idriss, the head of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army and an FSA spokesman, pronounce, “In Syria, Infighting Between al-Qaida Groups and Mainstream Rebels Undermining Revolt”.
After Qusayr was re-claimed by the regime in June, I wrote, “Qusayr did not resolve the Syrian conflict. It only highlighted that resolution is distant. The regime is unlikely to alter this with victory in one town.”

The line in much of the media was far different, however. With few, if any, correspondents on the ground — and often relying on the press releases of suspect sources — they first pronounced a regime offensive on Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. When that did not materialise, they projected that the Syrian military would re-claim all of Homs. More...
In spite of the view, widely promoted in the MainStream Media [MSM] after the fall of Qusayr, that the tide had turned and Assad was making serious gains against the revolution, this has not really been the case, as this review of current military developments published on Saturday by Reuters demonstrates:
Syrian rebels advance on northern army-held town

Sat, 20 Jul 2013 02:56 PM
By Erika Solomon
BEIRUT - Syrian rebels advanced on the northern town of Khan al-Assal on Saturday, activists said, and appeared close to seizing one of the last towns in western part of Aleppo province still held by President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

The army has been attempting a slow build-up of troops around the province in order to retake Aleppo city, once Syria's biggest commercial hub. So far Assad's push has been dogged by rebel counter-attacks, although a string of government victories elsewhere in Syria has shifted the battlefield tide in his favour after more than two years of bloodshed.

Elsewhere in northern Syria, Assad's forces launched a third day of heavy air strikes on the town of Saraqeb in Idlib province. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that by late afternoon, jets had already flown 12 raids over the town. Initial counts said five had been killed on Saturday, three of them children.
In recent weeks the rebels have been making slow but persistent progress in Deraa province in the south thanks to a fresh but intermittent influx of weapons coming in from neighbouring Jordan.

In Aleppo, near the Turkish border, hardline Islamist rebels - some of them linked to al Qaeda - appear to be leading the fight to seize Khan al-Assal, according to activists in the area who asked not to be named.
Assad's forces have responded to the rebel advance on Khan al-Assal with a string of air raids in the area that set alight swathes of nearby farmland, according to the Observatory. More...
Even though Reuters sticks to the "tide has shifted" narrative based on unmentioned "government victories elsewhere," the recent facts they report paint a very different picture. The same goes for the Times of London claim that fall of Homs was a done deal more than a week ago. They said on 12 July 2013:
The last opposition-held areas of Homs are set to fall within days to the Syrian army after rebel forces decided to “sacrifice” the country’s third-largest city to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, according to diplomats and opposition sources.

The fall of Homs will represent a strategic and propaganda victory for the Assad regime
But the Free Syria Army keeps hanging on, and it has now been some 40 days since the opposition's negotiated abandonment of Qusayr, which if one believed all the western media military hype, was to have heralded a turning of the tide for Assad.

Explosives in dud, near Khalid Bin Al Walid mosque to be reworked & returned! | 19 July 2013

Here is the latest on Homs, from the Al Jazeera Live Blog as of 19 July 2013 10:23pst:
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that, Syrian rebel fighters killed 12 members of a pro-regime People's Committees in clashes overnight in the central city of Homs, and troops responded by shelling them on Friday.

The rebel-held district is one of several regime forces have laid siege to for more than a year.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers on the ground, said government troops were continuing to shell the neighbourhood on Friday.
And so the old "stalemate" pattern continues on in Homs. The regime's fighters proved no match for the freedom fighters in face-to-face combat, so once again the regime pulls back and rains down death on everyone, fighters and civilians alike, with its long range artillery. As EAWorldView said on Saturday, 20 July 2013:
It is now six weeks since the fall of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border, and predictions that Syrian forces would re-claim control of all of Homs, 18 miles to the north.

Despite heavy shelling of insurgent areas and the re-claiming of a few buildings on the fringes of those neighborhoods, the regime appears to be no closer to that goal.

This morning State news agency SANA limits itself to the claim:
The army tightened its grip on four building blocks in Bab Houd neighborhood, with an official source telling a SANA reporter that many terrorists who had been stationed at these buildings were killed.
A tank is pounding Houla, Homs | 19 July 2013

From the resistance service Homs up-to-date News we have this report for Friday 19 July 2013:
Regime forces shelled Mazraa and Ragga pro-regime villages
Regime forces stationed in the military academy in Waar neighborhood, shelled Mazraa and Ragga pro-regime villages, with several mortar shells, killing at least 5 and injuring 20, and destroying a number of houses.

This attempt comes from the system after the failure and inability to control the besieged areas in Homs, trying to push the insurgents in the pro-regime (Shiite ) villages of Mazraa and Ragga to carry out the attack on innocent civilians in Waar neighborhood.

Grad rockets on Akrama and Qapo village:
Resistance fighters continue to fire Grad rockets on the regime strongholds in the pro-regime areas (Akrama neighborhood and Qapo village) and they achieved exact targets, as many ambulances were seen heading from these areas to Zaiem hospital.
EAWorldView explains that these aren't the usually inaccurate Grad rockets:
An EA correspondent, with sources in Homs, assesses:
When you hear about the Free Syrian Army shelling regime districts in Homs with “Grads”, that’s not exactly the truth.

These “Grads” appear to be pretty precise rockets, neither home-made nor actual (inaccurate) Grads. They target positions of shabiha [pro-regime militia], avoiding civilian losses.

The FSA’s possession of such an armory might partly explain why not even Hezbollah was able to storm the besieged districts of Homs.
An interesting argument, which raises a further question if it is true: who is supplying the rockets to the insurgency?
The correspondent continues:
Regime attacks on besieged Homs and even regime-held districts are brutal, but it seems they do not follow a sensible military tactic.

Instead, this appears to be sheer terror, applied on mostly civilian areas like Al-Waer, etc. out of frustration that they have not gotten a foothood inside insurgent territory.
18+ | Removing shrapnel from a child's face in Arrastan field hospital | Homs | 16 July 2013

800 families are trapped in Homs and under seige by Assad's forces. They have suffered some loses in spite of the FSA's efforts to move them around to keep them safe from Assad's rockets and bombs but Hezbullah and other pro-Assad forces have also suffered heavy loses whenever they attempt to engage on the ground. Peter Clifford On-line gave us an example 17 July 2013:
A report from Tartous today says that a total of 374 dead or injured regime troops have been taken to the regime military’s Basel Al-Assad Hospital there after being killed or injured in fighting against FSA forces in Homs.
Al Ghouta | Homs | Destruction from Regime Shelling | 19 July 2013

Homs up-to-date News also had this bit, copied from the other side:
Comments on the pro-regime FB pages:

Why the army didn't enter Khalidiyeh?!! Why are they launching a campaign on Waar??
Haven't we had enough blood?! Stop waging war against Sunnis!!
They outnumber us, this is gonna take us to a dark place!! We can't kill them all. there are millions of them!!

The admin replied:
" those talking from behind the screen and complaining, can shut up. our army is paying many martyrs everyday, and you accuse them of not doing their jobs!!!"
Born this day in besieged Old Homs, little Jenan is just 6 hours old. The meaning of
her name is "Paradises" although her place of birth is quite the opposite | 19 July 2013

Assad's Aleppo Offensive Fizzes

As I reported earlier, Assad's "On to Aleppo" drive has kinda gotten bogged down in Homs, essentially still attempting to secure the supply routes that were suppose to be secured by the taking of Qusayr. While many media pundits predicted that with Hezbullah's support, Assad would make quick work of the strongholds in Homs, but that has not been the case.

In fact the real news should be that the revolution has effectively absorbed the shock of Hezbullah's entry into the fray and not buckled.

Protest in Damascus suburb | 19 July 2013

Peter Clifford On-line also gave us his appraisal of the military situation as of 17 July 2013, and tells us the opposition has been making gains in the Damascus area:
Lose territory, is just what appears to have happened in Damascus where the Government has been trying to launch yet another major offensive, pushing its way, after a rocket and artillery blitz, into Qaboun and other Sunni suburbs.

Latest reports from Darraya, a suburb that has held out against Assad’s forces for more than 10 months, suggest that over the last 2 days Opposition fighters have fought fiercely to retake a large residential area they had lost earlier.

The retaken territory includes over 30 strategic buildings overlooking the industrial zone near Abu Suleima Addarani Mosque. Opposition fighters say that they killed many regime soldiers and captured lots of ammunition and weapons including a wire-guided missile.

Activists also say that the Opposition has managed to bring in reinforcements into the Damascus area to help resist the Assad Army advance.

Elsewhere in Damascus the Opposition were reported this morning, Wednesday, to be bombarding Damascus International Airport again with Grad missiles and to have killed 10 members of the pro-regime Abu Al-Fadi Al-Abbas Brigade and Hezbollah in fighting around the Sayeda Zeinab shrine.
(07 19 13) Joubar | Damascus | Heavy Gunfire as FSA Battles Regime Forces

He reports that the now familiar pattern of the reign responding to losses on the ground with long range attacks is repeated in Deraa:
In Deraa province Opposition fighters have captured a major checkpoint and a tank at Nawa, HERE: though the Government has since retaliated with an airstrike,
In the Idlib countryside the Opposition have also made progress storming the Maarbalet Military checkpoint near the “Brick Factory”, HERE:
While the struggle between the Syrian revolutionaries and the regime remains the main event, this conflict has developed many other aspects with age.

Civil Wars within the Revolution

Clausewitz said war was simply the pursuit of politics by other, i.e. violent, means. As the politics of Syria is now very complex, so are the civil wars that going on within the context of the overall struggle to overthrow the Assad regime.

Because that struggle has become such a protracted struggle, it has brought many different fighting organizations into the fray, most are Syrian, some represent the Kurdish minority and some represent foreign fighters. Among the foreign fighters, some are Arab nationalists or internationalists who have come to help the Syrian people overthrow their dictatorship and some are religious fanatics hoping to subvert the chaos created by this protracted struggle to create their vision of an Islamic state.

In a number of areas of Syria, the conflict between these different "special interest" groups has devolved into open warfare between them.

Free Syria Army confronts Salafist jihadist threat in the North

In the region around Aleppo, a number of the jhadist groups have thrown down the gauntlet to the democratic revolutionaries by announcing their intentions to declare an Islamic State of Syria in the North at the end of Ramadan and by attacking the Free Syria Army. Peter Clifford On-line reports:
Last Thursday, an ISIS commander was accused of shooting dead a member of the FSA’s Supreme Military Council after a dispute at a checkpoint in Latakia, while other members of the FSA were injured as they fled the scene. Al Jazeera has interviewed one of the injured FSA , HERE:

After a meeting of the its Supreme Military Council, the FSA gave out a 24 hour ultimatum calling for the arrest of the ISIS commander accused of the killing, Ebu Ayman Al-Baghdadi, or “further action would be taken”.

One Opposition activist, commenting on the activities of ISIS, said, “They didn’t come to Syria to help the revolution. They stay in the liberated areas and try to take power”.

Mohammed Faizou, a fighter with the Ansar al-Din Battalion in coastal Latakia province, said that while the Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra “fights the regime and does not interfere with others,” the largely foreign Islamic State fighters “interfere with everything” and are preoccupied with imposing Islamic law.

Kurdish YPG confronts Salafist and jihadist threat in Kurdistan

In the Kurdish region of northern Syria, the YPG is trying to create an independent Kurdish state and have been fighting the jhadist Al-Nusra Front [JAN] and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIS]. AFP reported, 19 July 2013:
This week alone, at least 29 jihadist and Kurdish fighters have been killed in two days of fighting in the Ras al-Ain area of Hasakeh province in northeastern Syria.
These clashes ended with the Kurdish forces pushing the jhadists out of Ras al-Ain and the nearby border crossing with Turkey.

The jhadists in the area had enjoyed the support of the FSA, but as the riff grew between them and the jhadists have become more heavy-handed and abusive in implementing their version of the "right path" in the Kurdish areas they controlled, the decision was made to move on them.

Tevgra ciwanen kurd [TCK] has posted this report, 19 July 2013, to its website:
Fighting escalates between YPG and Jabhat Al-Nusra; reaches to the Oil-Rich areas in Al jazeera

After months of Jabhat Al-Nusra and Islamist groups existence in Al Jazeera areas N-NE Syria "Mostly Kurds", locals started to complain and describe the way they suffer under the rule of Islamic extremist rebels; However; The extreme actions by the Islamists ruler "Jabhat Al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or the ISIS" seemed to be getting an increased trend in the last few days, like imposing "Fasting" on the locals; or threatening women to wear the Islamic Hijab "headscarf" and many other Sharia extreme laws without considering "the different cultures of Syrian people" and especially the Kurdish people culture, furthermore; in July 16th a group of Jabhat Al-Nusra attempted to arrest members of the Kurdish armed group YPJ/YPG "People's Protection Units, women branch" in the city of Ras Al-Ayn "Sere Kaniye, in Kurdish" in Hasakah province.

The attempt however has failed but led to clashes between Al-Nusra backed with Islamic extremist rebels and the Kurdish YPG; the Kurdish armed forces won the battle and expelled the Islamic extremist rebels from the city of Sere Kaniye and announced total control over the city in July 17th. The Islamic extremist rebels of Jabhat Al-Nusra and the ISIS fled toward "Asfar Najjar and Til Hallaf areas" 4km away from the city of Sere Kaniye, losing Turkey-Syria border gate in the city in favor of Kurdish forces YPG. The extremists vowed revenge and bombarded the city randomly using mortar shells, which led to mass exodus among the locals especially in Mahata and Ebra neighborhoods. More...

As you can see, the Syrian conflict is now a very complicated, multifaceted affair, I hope this review of the current military situation helps bring some clarity and shows that reports of the tide turning against the revolution are a bit overblown.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

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