Syria Year-End Predictions and Analysis – by Joshua Landis (28 December 2014)

Year-end Predictions and Analysis by Joshua LandisMurad Basha Mosque
Syria Comment 28 December 2014

Syria will become increasingly fragmented in 2015. The Somalia-ization of the country is inevitable so long as the international community degrades all centers of power in Syria and the opposition fails to unite.

Who owns what?

The four strongest authorities in Syria are the Assad government, ISIS, Nusra, and the Kurds. They rule close to 95% of Syrian territory. The Assad government rules 45% of the land and perhaps 65% of the population, give or take. ISIS rules 35%, but controls less than 3 million people. Kurds may control about 8% or 9% of Syria and Nusra another 5%. This leaves the hundreds of additional militias controlling the remaining 5%, but in some areas “No FSA faction can operate without Nusra’s approval.” Jihadis prevailed in 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 5.52.36 PM

Thanks to @deSyracuse for his maps. Click on it to go to his site and use interactive features

 

All authorities will become weaker, with the possible exception of the Kurds. The United States is at war with all important Arab factions. It is actively bombing ISIS and Nusra, while sanctioning Assad.  Although Washington has been funding a “train and equip” project to the tune of half a billion dollars, it appears to have neither urgency nor teeth. Coalition forces are divided on objectives. This means that all centers of authority in Syria are being degraded while none are being built up. It means no one can win. The Assad regime, ISIS, and Nusra are all likely to see their power diminish over the coming year. The FSA militias have become practically irrelevant and must take orders from the radicals. The educated and worldly activists who played such a vital role in launching the revolution have been pushed aside and are today without influence. One can interpret this either as: a) Liberals and democrats in Syria were such a small elite that they were quickly swept aside by the tide of sectarians, fascists, and Islamists; or B) Assad intentionally destroyed the liberals and moderates so that he would face only extremists, leaving the world to face an either-or choice: Assad or al-Qaida. The reality is probably a measure of both.

The Assad government strengthened its control over major cities, while losing control over rural areas. It gained ground in the Damascus suburbs, Kalamoun, Homs and Aleppo, but it lost territory in others, such as Idlib, the Golan, Deraa and the Jazira. This strategy reveals Assad’s urban bias. He believes he can regain the support of the urban middle classes who fear the radicalized and poorer country-folk. The Baath originally relied on rural support against the cities. But as it went bankrupt and turned away from subsidies and socialism toward neo-liberal policies mixed with a heavy dose of corruption, it turned its back on the urban poor and struggling countryside. Today the regime is trying to turn the rich against the poor in an effort to convince them that the revolution was a pipe-dream and that they must fight “terrorism.” Collapsing oil revenues in Iran and Russia mean that Assad will have to suffer with less money in 2015. But so too will the rebels because they are as reliant on oil money as the regime. All incomes will take a nosedive. Ninety percent of Syrians live below the poverty line, according to the UN. But poverty can get worse.

NusraJihadis and extremists prevailed

Although 2014 began with US-backed militias teaming up with the Islamic Front and Nusra to drive ISIS “out of Syria,” they failed. They succeeded in expelling ISIS from Idlib province and villages north of Aleppo, but Nusra quickly routed the pro-US rebels and asserted itself over the Idlib region. It has also spread its power in Deraa and planted its flag on the Golan. Nusra refrains from swallowing up FSA militias in part because their purported independence is useful. As one USA vetted fighter in Northern Syria explained, “Nusra lets groups vetted by the United States keep the appearance of independence, so that they will continue to receive American supplies.” Once received, the radicals have the authority to commandeer the advanced arms. This is why the US is abandoning the vetted FSA militias and beginning its policy of “train and equip,” an effort to build a Syrian Army completely controlled by the US. Washington explains that the new force will be used to fight ISIS, then weaken Assad with the goal of forcing him to first accept a political solution and then leave the country. This is unrealistic, but what else can the US say it is doing?

ISThe creation of new states was the rage in 2014.

ISIS began the craze with the announcement of the Islamic State shortly after its leader, Baghdadi, declared himself Caliph. Nusra followed suit with the declaration of an Emirate. The Kurds showed restraint by refusing to declare their independence, but made considerable headway in that direction. Rojava, the Kurdish name for Syrian Kurdistan, is now on everyone’s lips. In the last months of 2013, the PYD announced an interim government divided into three non-contiguous autonomous areas or cantons, Afrin, Jazira and Kobani and military service was declared compulsory in July 2014. The war against ISIS has strengthened the state attributes of Kurdistan. Iraqi Kurdistan received new direct military aid from many countries. Rojava gained US and international backing for its military efforts, especially in the battle for Kobani. Although the region has been depopulated, the new partnership between the PYD and Washington is big. Even Turkey was forced to break its embargo on the PYD.

The Great Sorting Out and Rise of Religious Nationalism

Religious nationalism has become the dominant ideology in the Middle East. The “secular” nationalism that was once the hallmark of post colonial regimes and leaders, such as Nasser, Assad, Hussein, Bourgiba, Arafat, and Boumediene is moribund. Interestingly, Egypt and Tunisia have reacted against this trend. Is their reaction a harbinger of Islamist retreat more broadly or merely a hiccup? Hard to tell, but my guess is that 2015 will see religious identities harden throughout the Levant. This means bad news for reconciling Syria’s waring parties. The Levant Front, the most recent effort by Syria’s many militias to unify, does not look more promising than past efforts. The Syrian opposition seems to be organized along regional and local village and clan lines, hence its inability to unite. Traditional loyalties of religion, village and family have trumped national ones. The only ideology able to attract followers on a national scope is Islam.

I have spoken at some length about the “Great Sorting Out” that I believe is taking place in the Levant countries. The Syrian civil war fits into a larger pattern of nation-building in which the many ethnic and religious communities of the region are caught in a brutal struggle for primacy and survival. It is strikingly similar the nation-building process that dominated Central Europe during WWII. Multi-ethnic and mutli-religious lands are being transformed into boringly homogenous nations. We are witnessing the rearrangement of populations in the region to better fit the nation states that were fixed after WWI.

Some new borders are being drawn, such as those around the Kurdish regions of Iraq and perhaps Syria, but mostly, what we are seeing is the ethnic cleansing of the smaller minorities and rearranging of populations to fit their borders. This means that the smaller minorities of the region, those that are scattered, such as the Christians, Armenians, Roma, Bahai, Mandaeans, and Jews, before they massed in Palestine and forced out the Palestinians, will likely be swept from the region. The “compact minorities,” those that live together in one region, are more capable of defending themselves, such as the Jews of Israel, the Shiites of Lebanon, the Alawites (so far), and the Druze (who have simply been lucky). But the smaller compact minorities, such as the Yazidis, Assyrians, Ismailis, and Shabaks—may God protect them.

JunudRahmanSyria is locked into perpetual war

The great powers are determined to support their Syrian proxies enough that they will not lose, but not enough to win. This means prolonged struggle. Most regional civil wars have come to an end only with foreign intervention. Lebanon and Iraq had foreign powers disarm militias in order to facilitate state-building and political compromise. No foreign power is likely to intervene in Syria to disarm radicals or nurse moderates back into the political center.

Has the US changed its position on Syria?

Officially, the US continues to see Bashar al-Assad as a “dead man walking” and to insist that he “step aside.” Secretary of State Kerry began the year at the Geneva peace talks announcing that Bashar al-Assad had lost all legitimacy. He added that no one could conceive of his playing a role in the future of Syria. This week General Allen, Obama’s special envoy said, “as far as the U.S. is concerned, there is no Bashar al-Assad, he is gone.” The United States finds talking to Assad too ideologically costly. But it equally finds the notion of unifying & arming the opposition too costly & improbable. Thus, Washington seems determined to stick to a narrow policy of counter-terrorism—killing ISIS and Nusra when opportunity presents itself and keeping them on their heels. Washington sees the Syria problem as unfixable. The American people want no part of it, hence the threatened “no” vote in congress when the issue was bombing Assad for his use of chemical weapons as well as the more recent cutting of 300 million dollars of additional support from a larger spending bill that was earmarked for Syria’s “moderate” militias.

But if US talking points about Assad remain unchanged, underlying realities have shifted. Exactly one year ago, Ambassador Ryan Crocker wrote in a prescient article, entitled “Assad Is the Least Worst Option in Syria,” that “we need to come to terms with a future that includes Assad—and consider that as bad as he is, there is something worse.” That something, which was Nusra and ISIS, sucked the United States back into the region this summer. When ISIS swept through Sunni Iraq without a real fight and threatened to conquer Irbil and Baghdad, President Obama was forced to go to war. He could not allow al-Qaida to rule Iraq. Once President Obama threatened to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, the US effectively became an ally of the Assad regime and Iran, like it or not.

The Syrian peace talks that Russia has announced for 2015 may seem like a joke, but they are perhaps designed to get the US to officially accept the fact that Assad may remain leader of Syria. After all, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov assured the press that he “was in contact with our American partners” about the peace talks. It is hard to believe that Obama will climb down from his stand that Assad must step aside unless Assad makes real concessions and can draw the US-recognized Syrian Opposition Coalition into negotiations. The chance that this could happen seem slim.

Is the Syrian Army a Bulwark against Extremism?

In the bowels of the Pentagon, officers probably look at Assad’s state as a bulwark against ISIS and Nusra. They cannot allow it to be destroyed for fear that the the Jihadists will sweep into Damascus and Syria’s cities. Once ensconced in the capital, they would own Syria. What is more, a new wave of refugees would flee from Syria into Lebanon and Jordan, possibly overwhelming both governments. Certainly Baathists, security personnel, and regime apparatchiks would flee. If Alawites, Christians, Druze and Shiites believed that they were no longer safe due to religious persecution, refugee numbers could reach into the millions. America’s policy has been to contain the violence in Syria. Regime collapse could defeat that policy, just as regime survival seems to defeat it. Most of America’s allies and the Syrian opposition insist that US war planes should be bombing Assad as well as ISIS. The US cannot risk an extremist victory by destroying the Syrian Army. But US politicians also want to weaken the regime. Israel wants to destroy its advanced missile systems. Syria is a perfect case where US military planners may want a policy quite different from that set out by politicians.

The Syrian army is likely to remain weak and over-extended. It is desperate for soldiers and alienating its own supporters with draconian draft measures. Syrian National Defense Forces or popular militias will do more of the work. As Aron Lund has pointed out, they tend to be local forces that are reluctant to move out of their home districts or travel beyond their villages. This is part of the overall fragmentation.

Why De Mestura’s Plan Makes Sense

Staffan de Mistura’s UN backed plan makes sense if one sees the future of Syria in the bleakest light, where fragmentation is the rule and regime strength is limited largely to the cities. Because disunity precludes a comprehensive peace plan, de Mistura has come up with the notion of local freezes and sees Aleppo as a likely starting point. Activists have pronounced this plan defeatist, if not pro-Assad, but de Mistura has little choice. He has no army with which to change the balance of power. His mission is to save lives and provide food. If local rebels want out, as they did in Homs, the UN can help. Likewise, if pro-regime towns, such as Nubl and Zahraa, are starving, the UN can try to freeze fighting and get aid in or help officiate a surrender. All sides will have to agree. It is the lowest common denominator, but an essential role that only the UN can fill.

BqfFygOCAAA35uL2014 was the year of ISIS

The past year was ISIS’ year. But 2015 is likely to see ISIS seriously degraded, even if far from destroyed. In Iraq, the US has partners – the Peshmerga and the Baghdad government – to dislodging ISIS from important strongholds. The US will likely conceal its policy of arming up Shiites to kill Sunnis behind the fig leaf of promoting power-sharing in Baghdad. The difficult reality is that the US has little leverage to force Prime Minister Ibadi to change the true government of Iraq’s government, which is unabashedly sectarian. In the short term, the US may be content to shove ISIS back into Syria to the extent that it can in the hope of containing it there. The difficulty for the US in Syria is that it has no partners to fight ISIS. It is confined to pursuing a narrow policy of counter-terrorism from the sky.

ISIS’ success among the rebel militias is founded on its brutal authoritarianism. “Caliph” Baghdadi has copied the Assad and Saddam regimes. It is no surprise that his top 20 officers are largely Iraqi ex-Baathists. The Syrian opposition has not found a way to compromise or unify without the use of force and terror. Thus ISIS is deploying the same paranoid style and traditional loyalties to unify Syria’s fissured society as did the Baath. To succeed it is becoming even more terrifying than the regime it hoped to replace.

In February 2015, the US and Turkey signed a deal to train and equip vetted Syrian rebels opposed to the Islamic State militants. They are to constitute a “third force” in Syria and provide a partner for the United States, which refuses to work with Assad and his military. Additional training centers in Jordan, Qatar and Saudi are said to be coming on line.

Is this promised third force merely a political fix for Washington and European policy makers who are too horrified at accepting that the present choice in Syria seems to be that the choice in Syria is not one between Assad and ISIS?

[End of Landis analysis]

The following round-ups were sent to me by members of the Syria Comment team.

Handala bin Baal writes:

In the first days of 2014, Nusra, IF and FSA united to expel ISIS. Today, IS controls most of east Syria, and in the areas where ISIS was driven out, Nusra simply finished what ISIS had started and killed, kidnapped and routed most of the western backed rebels in aleppo, idlib, homs and Daraa. The jihadis are stronger than ever in rebel held Syria and Nusra is moving forward with its Islamic emirate. Meanwhile the Syrian army is running out of fucks to give for what happens in Sunni areas of no economical value.
Going into 2014, the syrian army priorities are, reaching nubul and zahraa in Aleppo, maintaining Deir ez zor as main iranian supply base and making sure that things remain under control in Damascus, Homs, and coast by keeping the Sunnis busy in ghoutas, daraa, hama, idlib and jabal al akrad.

When will this war end? When all the people die. Listen to the kid in this video. Out of the mouth of babes… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIrBtCfX4tI#t=724

Ehsani2 writes:

The biggest change in 2014 was the continued confirmation that the regime was not going to fall anytime soon. Ahrar al-Sham’s leadership was eliminated. ISIL invited US strikes after senseless beheadings of westerners.

2015 is going to be shaped by who will turn out to be the ultimate winner of Aleppo. Local truce deals will continue to be the preferred outcome by negotiators. The White House may not turn away from its stated goal of Assad-must-step-aside but in practice it will continue to move further from any notion of direct military involvement or regime change. The Syrian opposition has failed to win the hearts and minds of enough congressmen or senators who would pressure a change in strategy in DC. While Syrians will be told that only a political solution exists for their country, fighting will continue. Neither the government nor the opposition will still be ready to negotiate during 2015.

Comments (28)


1. Daniel Demeter said:

Detailed and objective analysis of the present situation. Very well done. Accurately reflects all the information I’m getting from my own sources in Syria on various sides of the conflict.

It is saddening that there is so little opening for optimism, but at the same time I suppose we should remind ourselves that things could be worse. At the very least, many urban centers including Damascus, Lattakia, Tartus, Hama, al-Suweida and even Homs (for the most part) have stabilized, and those populations have some sense of security.

More defined front lines should, in theory, reduce civilian casualties. The situation in Aleppo could be resolved in the near future (inshallah), hopefully ending the immense destruction that has been inflicted upon the city’s rich cultural heritage.

But maintaining the status quo, or even a slight reduction of active fighting, still means further economic decline, and another year that Syrian children go without education, socialized in a culture of violence. Heart breaking.

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December 28th, 2014, 7:59 pm

 

2. Ghufran said:

Most predictions about the Syrian war proved to be wrong but valuable lessons have been learned:
1. Islam and democracy are not compatible unless we are talking about a homogenous country where the overwhelming majority of citizens belong to one sect but even there most Islamic countries either have corrupt dictatorships or a system where minorities are treated as second class citizens which by itself removes the democracy label from those governments. Islamists often admit that there is only Khilafa in Islam. Western type democracy is a rarity in the Muslim world.For Muslim countries to advance and prosper religion has to stay home.
2. Regional non Arab powers and western powers were more than willing to use Syrians as fuel for their burning desire to advance their influence. Western governments is particular have no problem taking GCC corrupt Sheikhdoms as allies while pretending to be advocates for freedom and democracy.
3. Wahhabi Islam and Israel work hand in hand as long as they are fighting a common enemy: Iran. This explains alwalid bin Talal statement declaring Iran, instead of Israel, as the GCC real enemy, however shiism is only a cover , Turkey is spared for now because it is seen as a NATO ally and a friend of Israel, if Iran is defeated Turkey will be next if Erdogan party makes a U turn and tries to take Iran’s role. Egypt is crucial for KSA as a buffer after Naser’s Arabism experiment ended in 1970, this is why most of the GCC governments were too quick to embrace sisi of Egypt despite the fact that he unseated an elected president, the GCC did not like to see Egypt becoming another Iran even if it was Sunni. The GCC, the West and Israel do not want any regional country to be ruled by an ideologue with regional ambitions, they are now watching how Turkey conducts itself, some GCC media is already attacking Erdogan’s government.
4. The failure of the Arab spring to replace dictatorships, with the possible exception of Tunisia, with a moderate political system of governing is likely to influence future policies in the region for decades to come. Revolutions and armed rebellions produced failed countries that are in worse shapes than the ones they tried to change.

Syrians who opposed the armed rebellion did so for different reasons , some Syrians were connected to the regime, some feared the alternative, and they were right, and some did not believe violence can build a nation. The bottom line is that the journey to democracy is a long one and it requires basic elements that are absent today in most of the Arab and Muslim world, a viable middle class is a prerequisite for any democracy to be born and thrive.
كل ثوره و انتم بخير
امه فاشله من الألف للياء

Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 28 Thumb down 25

December 28th, 2014, 9:01 pm

 

3. Poul said:

Given that Aleppo is one of the areas where the Syrian army is making progress. I have a hard time seeing why that is a logical starting point.

If the SAA gains the last few kilometres to close the surrounding of Western Aleppo we are talking 15-25.000 surrounded Islamic Front fighters etc. That’s a major win. And I havn’t seen the local resistance being able to stop the army from succeeding.

The SAA is also making steady headway to Nubl and Zahraa… so again where is the motivation for talks?

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December 29th, 2014, 5:05 am

 

4. Norman said:

Who is running the show in Washington? Syria is shaping up to being another failure in the U.S. so-called “War on Terror”. The only thing that is tangible, is the expended “Treasure” that the U.S. has spent. Talk about being suckered, this certainly has been the biggest rip off of the American taxpayer of all time. The really sad part, is the death & destruction that has ensued because of the meddling in other peoples business, through either stupidity or ineptness or both.

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December 29th, 2014, 8:42 am

 

5. Jasmine said:

Israel is not going to be happy living next to Somalia if these predictions turn out to be true.
If I was living in Israel,I would pack my bags and immigrate to a safer land.
On a positive note,I am getting a better news,The Syrian embassy is open in Kuwait today and this will be followed by many more,it looks like Obama is leaving the White House sooner than Assad leaving Syria.
The Syrian army are advancing and gaining by the day,with a marvelous training.
Christians are staying put and they would rather die in Syria than getting humiliated with an asylum status in the west.
The cup is half full.

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December 29th, 2014, 12:56 pm

 

6. Daniel Demeter said:

While I largely agree with Ghufran’s comments, I’m not entirely sold on the idea that a homogenous population is necessary for a democratic system to function in the region. While it is not without major problems, and is certainly strained by the situation in neighboring Syria, Lebanon is an interesting case. The lack of an outright majority sect has seemingly allowed for a democratic system to function, as no single group is able to obtain absolute power. Consequently, you have various alliances between political parties (most of which are dominated by a single religious sect) and subsequent power sharing. That’s not to say that no groups are marginalized; but by seeking consensus and alliance with other parties they have the opportunity to de-marginalize themselves (generally by becoming more moderate/centrist).

Again, obviously Lebanon is not without its serious issues, but the pseudo-democratic system in place there seems better than the alternatives. And much of the strain put on Lebanon’s democracy is exaggerated by outside interference, with pressure from the Saudis, Iranians, French and others.

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December 29th, 2014, 2:35 pm

 

7. Daniel Demeter said:

Poul – while the SAA is making gains around Aleppo and may very well succeed in besieging the areas under Islamic Front control, they’re simultaneously losing ground in neighboring Idleb. There are concerns that the city of Idleb, and neighboring towns like Ariha, may come under attack from al-Nusra in the near future.

I agree that the SAA has little reason to negotiate a freeze in Aleppo that doesn’t lead to the withdrawal of Islamic Front fighters. But if that can be negotiated, I have to imagine the regime would jump at the opportunity to secure what would be promoted as a “victory” in Aleppo, and then be able to redeploy some of their forces back to Idleb. Even if the SAA completely encircles Islamic Front fighters in Aleppo, I doubt they want to enforce a prolonged siege that would strain their resources. The opposition is deeply entrenched and could hold out for a year or more (like in Homs).

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December 29th, 2014, 2:56 pm

 

8. ALAN said:

NORMAN: Yes…
The US tax payer should be listening to where their tax dollars are going: directly into the hands of ISIS, so they can rape, maim , enslave and kill innocent civilians.
The German journalist Jugen Todenhofer: 10 days in Syria and Iraq with ISIS. He gave an interview in English with France24. The TV presenter might faint when he said that the people in Reqaa support Pres. Assad. (as opposed to ISIS). He also said that the weapons that ISIS uses are all from US and European sources, and were bought from the FSA.I hope that Obama and the US Congress are listening! Most probably they lost their minds in obedience to Benjamin Netanyahu
Graham told Netanyahu that “the Congress will follow your lead” …
Congress Leader Benjamin Netanyahoo!!!
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.634286

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December 29th, 2014, 5:28 pm

 

9. Jasmine said:

Daniel
God forbidden ! If we in Syria are going to end up like Lebanon !
Their politicians are clowns and most of them are marionettes of SA,France and Iran.
Half the Lebanese don’t speak proper Arabic,they think that they are french,if it wasn’t for the Syrian army they would have been swallowed by Israel 30 years ago.
Have they elected a president yet?

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December 29th, 2014, 5:42 pm

 

10. Poul said:

Daniel Demeter: I beg to disagree. The SAA needs to inflict massive manpower losses on the rebels. That is the best way to end a war of attrition. A siege followed by the imprisonment of 1000’s of Islamic Front fighters will shift the balance of power.
Letting them go just move the problem/fighting elsewhere (I find it likely that the rebels will just abandon Aleppo like they did Yabrud when that town was on the verge of being surrounded).

The SAA do not have to be offensive if they surround Western Aleppo. They can dig in and wait thereby reducing manpower needs. There is still a large civilian population which will eat all available food much quicker than in the Homs city districts which the rebels held.

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December 29th, 2014, 7:34 pm

 

11. Andrew Kevorkian said:

Norman is the only one whose comments make any kind of sense. And, the answer to his (basically unasked) question as to how America has made another stupid decision is, simply: “Because Turkey is demanding that we get rid of Assad because Turkey doesn’t like Assad.” America has never given a good solid reason why Assad should go. Because it has none.

A good rule of thumb: “Ask what America’s policy is in the Middle East, and you can be sure the opposite is the correct view.”

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December 29th, 2014, 11:34 pm

 

12. Daniel Demeter said:

Poul – The siege in Homs ultimately resulted in a negotiated settlement with the fighters leaving and the government pronouncing victory, and even that took over a year. I don’t see why Aleppo would be different (thousands of fighters being imprisoned?). Sure, a negotiated settlement shifts the opposition fighters elsewhere, but it seems the SAA is better equipped to handle more conventional warfare in the countryside regions than they are street-to-street urban combat.

And, again, they are facing a major challenge from al-Nusra in Idleb that they will need to address before it spreads further into Hama (or perhaps towards Lattakia). Holding a siege on Aleppo is going to put much more strain on their resources than the siege of Homs, which was readily accessible by their supply lines and surrounded by a large buffer of regime-held territory. Holding a siege over Aleppo is going to be much more challenging with al-Nusra to the west and south, Daesh to the east, Turkey to the north. They’d be totally reliant on the supply route through Khanaser, as far as I understand. Seems risky.

I have to imagine there is a lot of domestic pressure on the regime to achieve a victory in Aleppo, and sooner if possible, especially after losses in Idleb. I think the SAA willl negotiate a settlement, though they’ll probably need to tighten the noose around Islamic Front for awhile first.

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December 30th, 2014, 1:47 am

 

13. Poul said:

The number of civilians draining the food supply matters. In Homs you could smuggle things into the small contested areas. We are talking about how many people in Western Aleppo? 100,000’s?

Victory does not come from letting the rebel fighters move their activities elsewhere as happened in Homs. It comes from eliminating them permanently. Dead or prisoners.

You do that by surrounding them and starving them into submission. It doesn’t require offensive action in urban areas. Just defence. Local NDF can do most of that with some support from the SAA.

It’s attrition warfare – let the enemy leave and all you’ve gained is some land which you have to defend using the same number of soldiers as before. If you do not the enemy can return. So how is that going to free up troops for Idlib?

As for Idlib it is not were you can break the enemy. That just another local offensive which we have seen before a la the March offensive in Latakia.

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December 30th, 2014, 2:18 am

 

14. El Chino said:

Test

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December 30th, 2014, 2:55 am

 

15. ALAN said:

When the White House announced war on terror, it has mobilized all the Western world to help, and now included GCC states and Jordan.
As Syria’s war on the Western-NATO-Israeli-Gulf-Turkey (hybrid war) terrorism, rampant in Iraq and Syria, it is STILL AWAITING REVIEW, China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela (Latin America..) ,Egypt, North Korea …to support in the eradication of the American octopus!

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December 30th, 2014, 6:00 am

 

16. Sami said:

Is North Korea ever a good idea to align oneself with?

I just don’t get it…

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December 30th, 2014, 12:02 pm

 

17. Atassi said:

I in fact see the silver lining rising from all the negative predictions, I am actually in the camp that trust the last part of this conflict is near, Assad master plan consisting of destroying both the inexperienced not “so ready” secular opposition front and the political Islamic agenda of the brotherhood failed to achieve a successful results and became very clear for the regime it’s not sustainable anymore and opted into more defensive posture in many areas.
The opposition groups in general has no choice but to follow their sponsors instructions with limited room to maneuver, and its seems the American, KSA, Qatar and turkey recognized an opportunity for a short term resolution to contain and freeze the conflict for and hope better circumstances for a final solution.
there are too much negativity now and we will see capitulation shortly that will be the optimum time for all players to force both sides into a round table for a settlement…. the silver lining : there is a brighter side to the current deadlock.

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December 30th, 2014, 2:29 pm

 

18. Akbar Palace said:

Jasmine states:

…looks like Obama is leaving the White House sooner than Assad leaving Syria.

This is the typical bravado espoused by arabs who hate the US and the West.

Jasmine,

A rotation in leadership is a sign of power, and the opposite is actually a sign of weakness. But if you’re attracted to Presidents-for-Life, we hope you enjoy living under such tyrants like the average Syrian.

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December 30th, 2014, 4:11 pm

 

19. DDSR2 said:

As I’ve said before: the war continues.

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December 30th, 2014, 6:24 pm

 

20. ALAN said:

16. SAMI هل قمت بشيطنة الدول؟ الكوريون ليسوا شعب الله المختارأليس كذلك؟ و ليسوا من العالم المتحضرأيضا؟ انا اعتقد انهم أصدقاء أوفياء جدا و يهبون بصدق للمساعدة عند الحاجة، وهم شعب منظم و جديرون بالاحترام http://youtu.be/76a0uF585Vk لا تغضب الرب.

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December 30th, 2014, 6:45 pm

 
 

22. ALAN said:

Syrian Counter–Terrorism Conference Made History in Damascus
First appeared: http://journal-neo.org/2014/12/30/syrian-counter-terrorism-conference-made-history-in-damascus/

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December 30th, 2014, 8:30 pm

 

23. Ghufran said:

It is common knowledge that most Syrians did not like the Assad government but that does not mean they support the MB or armed rebels or that they want a puppet government that follows Erdogan and KSA orders. What most Syrians want is an accountable pleural government, neither the regime nor the rebels and their supporters provided that. I hope Syrians agree to stop the blood shed and accept their differences instead of continuing with this bloody and destructive dance. It tells a lot about the intentions of the rebels and their foreign backers when figures like manna’ were boycotted while cartoon characters at the SNC were provided with financial and political support.
The security chiefs who imprisoned political leaders like dr Alkhayyer and Louai Hussein did so to artificially create a morbid situation where the only opposition left is Islamist militants and Syrians who are playing nice with the regime.
Syria needs a unified army from the people and for the people and patriotic politicians who accept the principle of elections and equal rights for all Syrians, I do not believe we will get there overnight but I think 2015 will be the year when this war starts to die down.

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December 30th, 2014, 9:47 pm

 

24. Jasmine said:

Akbar Palace @18
You sound so frustrated,why would you care about Syrians out of the sudden?
If Obama cared about the Middle East,he wouldn’t trained jihadist and send them to Syria 4 years ago,and declared that the president of a country Israel didn’t like illegitimate.
I bet that Israel would like to see Syria fragmented into pieces!
Don’t you find it amazing that the Syrian army are still functioning after 4 years of hell?

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December 30th, 2014, 11:02 pm

 

25. ALAN said:

Each year, the sunlight shines throughout our beloved Syria gives peace and hope for tomorrow and bring souls closer to each other with love, because Syria is the message of love. Happy new year for all.

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December 31st, 2014, 10:41 am

 

26. Akbar Palace said:

You sound so frustrated,why would you care about Syrians out of the sudden?

Jasmine,

Yes, maybe a little frustrated. Glad you are so much at ease considering over 200,000 Syrians have met untimely deaths while 3 times as many Syrians have become refugees than Palestinians. How do you do it? What’s your secret?

If Obama cared about the Middle East,he wouldn’t trained jihadist and send them to Syria 4 years ago,and declared that the president of a country Israel didn’t like illegitimate.

Perhaps you are so much at ease because you know the lone cause of this tragedy: Obama. I’m beginning to understand.

I bet that Israel would like to see Syria fragmented into pieces!

No, actually Israel misses the good ‘of days when Assad protected all his borders including the one next to Israel.

Don’t you find it amazing that the Syrian army are still functioning after 4 years of hell?

If you think controlling less than 50% of your country with intl sanctions up to the eyeballs is “functioning”, then I think I can say “denial” isn’t just a river in Mitzraim.

Take some advice: get rid of your despots and your muslim fanatics and make the remaining 20 people the Syrian Parliament. It’s either that or perpetual war with …. yourselves.

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December 31st, 2014, 12:38 pm

 

27. Jasmine said:

Akbar,you are making your own assumption and talking to yourself.
Anger will lead to disfunction,you are still frustrated but not because you care about Syria,please save your crocodile tears.
If there is any dictator for a an apartheid sucker of a nation,it is some one called Bibi.
Happy new year.

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December 31st, 2014, 3:09 pm

 

28. Vinc said:

SAA offensive to surround Aleppo failed the moment they took Sheikh Najar. The idea of counter-encircling the rebels semi-encircling Aleppo was ludicrous to begin with. Had the SAA summed up the courage and advanced into Tareeq Al-Bab after taking Brigade 80, they might have succeeded. Now, they are hopelessly lost.

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January 10th, 2015, 11:20 am

 

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