The bloody war in Syria which has claimed more than 100,000 lives and driven an estimated 3 million residents out of the country into refugee camps in neighboring Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. There have been periodic predictions that the regime is on the verge of collapse.
Bluntly put, the end of the brutal regime is nowhere in sight. A series of geo-strategically critical victories has arguably given it the upper hand, even amid rebel campaigns in the country’s north.
Less than a month ago the Syrian army recaptured the vital town of Qusayr. Weeks later the regime claimed another significant victory on the outskirts of Homs, Syria’s third largest city, which once had a population of 700,000.
Homs and Qusayr are geographically critical to the regime’s ability to survive, linking Damascus to the Mediterranean heartland of President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite community.
Government troops have already conquered the Khalida neighborhood and driven the insurgents from central Homs. The rebels are now fighting a rear guard battle. If the Assad regime subdues Homes – and according to Syrian state media, the army is killing scores of opposition fighters – the Damascus is likely to turn its offensive to the northern part of Syria. Aleppo will be the prime target. The city, with a population of more than 1 million people, is Syria’s second largest city and an important trade center.
A senior Israeli military source who follows the events told The Tower that “the battle of Homs can signify the beginning of the end” of the formal armed struggle.
As in Qusayr, the battle over Homs is being fought as a joint Syrian-Hezbollah operation. The Lebanese Shiite terror group and its Iranian backers have proven be indispensable in salvaging the Assad regime from defeat. Israeli military sources say that all this is happening while the opposition continues to show signs of disintegration, marked by an inability to form a single unified command.
Opposition speakers continue to express disappointment at the reluctance of the United States and western nations to supply them with significant weapons systems. The United States and the West fear that the weapons will fall into the hands of the radical Islamist militias and gangs. With what is reported to be significant Qatari aid, Al Qaeda-linked jihadists have become among the best organized and most determined force among the fractured opposition.
Russia and Iran, meanwhile, continue to provide the Syrian army with sophisticated weapons, ammunition, oil and credit lines.
That said, even if government forces take back and control the big cities and the main roads connecting them, Damascus still lacks the human resources to chase the rebels to their desert, mountain, and countryside hideouts. The implication is that the war will probably continue asymmetrically, with rebels conducting guerrilla warfare, launching hit and run attacks, and targeting the regime with terror tactics.
Syria may not return to normalcy – let alone an orderly state – for years.
[Photo: PanARMENIAN_Photo / Flickr]