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Assad Forces Gaining Ground In Syria

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AJ 12

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Assad forces gaining ground in Syria

BEIRUT — Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are beginning to turn the tide of the country’s war, bolstered by a new strategy, the support of Iran and Russia and the assistance of fighters with Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.

A series of modest, scattered gains by government forces in recent weeks has produced no decisive breakthrough. But the advances have been made in strategically important locations and point to a new level of direction and energy previously unseen in the army’s performance, military analysts, rebels and Syrians close to the government say.

But analysts say there is little doubt that the pendulum is now swinging in favor of Assad, potentially putting him in a strong position to set terms if the negotiations with the opposition that the Obama administration and Russia last week agreed to sponsor eventually take place.

“If things continue as they are, the government will certainly be the party that has the major advantage” in any talks, said Charles Lister of the London-based IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center. “If we press pause on where we are today, it is clear the insurgency does not pose an existential threat to the regime.”

Pro-Assad analysts credit a major restructuring of government forces that has better equipped them to confront the insurgency. The ranks of the conventional Syrian army — weary, depleted and demoralized by defections, casualties and more than a year of continuous fighting — are being swelled by the deployment of some 60,000 militia irregulars trained at least in part by Hezbollah and Iranian advisers.

Most of the members of the National Defense Force are drawn from Assad’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, and theyare regarded as more reliably loyal to Assad than the rank and file of the majority Sunni army, government supporters say.Meanwhile, the regime can still call on its conventional superiority to project its power into areas where the rebels hold sway on the ground, including air strikes, ballistic missilesand artillery. And unlike the rebel force, which has received only sporadic supplies of relatively low-caliber weaponry from its reluctant Western and Arab allies, Assad’s military can count on steady supplies of arms and ammunition from Iran and Russia, Hanna said.

A new strategy for Assad

In the hotly contested eastern suburbs of Damascus, one of the areas where Assad’s rejuvenated forces are regaining lost ground, rebel fighters with the still-disorganized Free Syrian Army say the merging of the militias with the conventional army has bolstered the regime’s manpower by as much as a third. Though the rebels retain most of the strongholds they have controlled for much of the past year, Assad loyalists are steadily squeezing them,isolating them from one another and cutting their supply routes, the rebels say. Units are running out of ammunition, and some sound increasingly desperate.

“We do not know fear here, but we are worried about our future,” said Zainaldin al-Shami of the Free Syrian Army’s First Brigade, speaking by Skype from the Damascus suburb of Barzeh. “We are facing all kinds of weapons and we can’t defend ourselves. We need massive support.”

Perhaps most significantly, the government has recalibrated its approach to the warraging nationwide. Instead of stretching its forces thin by trying to fight on multiple fronts across the country, the regime is focusing on what it calls a few key “nodes” considered essential to sustaining its hold on power, according to Syrians and Lebanese familiar with the strategy.

They include the Damascus suburbs, along with an arc of territory stretching from the coastal ports of Latakia and Tartus in the northwest to the capital — the urban backbone of the country, embracing its most important supply routes.

Hezbollah Role

The Hezbollah force in Homs has played a crucial role in turning around months of stalemate in favor of the government, he said. Hezbollah fighters have secured control of a string of villages along the ill-defined border with Lebanon and are now laying siege to the rebel stronghold of Quseir, severing the rebels’ weapons supply route from Lebanon.

And the Hezbollah fighters are proving a tougher foe than the troops of the Syrian army, said Hussam Muhabeldeen, an activist contacted by Skype who is trapped in besieged Quseir.

“The fighters tell us that battling Hezbollah is very difficult compared to the army,” he said. “Hezbollah are more professional than the army”

Read the whole report http://www.washingto...6d9d_story.html

​The gains continue Today

In fighting in Syria, regime troops have taken full control of the strategic town of Khirbet Ghazaleh, near the highway linking the capital Damascus with Jordan, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group.

Rebels withdrew from the area after several days of fighting. Government forces conducted house-to-house searches Monday, the group said.

Troops also reopened the highway, restoring the supply line between Damascus and the contested provincial capital of Daraa, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, the head of the Observatory.

Rebels have been trying to carve a pathway from the Jordanian border through the southern province of Daraa, in what is seen as their best shot at capturing Damascus. A few weeks ago, they scored significant gains, but have since suffered setbacks in a government counteroffensive.


WESTERN DUMAYNA, Syria: Syrian troops captured three villages in the strategic Qusayr area of Homs province on Monday, allowing them to cut supply lines to rebels inside Qusayr town, a military officer told AFP.

"The attack on the villages of Western Dumayna, Haidariyeh and Esh al-Warwar began this morning," the lieutenant colonel said on condition of anonymity.

"The fighting lasted for three hours until we established control over these villages, which are considered strategic because they lie on the road between the cities of Homs and Qusayr and will allow us to block supplies to the militants in Qusayr," he said.

Western Dumayna is some eight kilometres (five miles) north of the rebel-held town of Qusayr, which has been at the centre of fierce battles between opposition forces and the Syrian military, backed by pro-Damascus group Hezbollah.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Ne...

Edited by AJ 12
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"60,000 militia irregulars" --this reminds me of the Minute Men of the American Revolution defending their homes from the Hessians; and also the French Resistance defending their homes from twisted cross Nazis.

"unlike rebel force...sporatic supplies...low calibre..."--this isn't a true representation because if you watch broadcasts it show the FSA with captured tanks, captured mortars, captured 23mm, etc; plus a lot of high tech satellite equipment to recieve tactical assistance and directions from the West.

The Russians need to send Syria some jamming and tracking equipment.

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