The Changing of the Tide in the Syrian Civil War – Itamar Rabinovich
The tide is changing in the Syrian civil war, with Bashar al-Assad and his regime gaining momentum. A massive effort by Iran and its proxy, Hizbullah, in al-Qusayr in June 2013 secured control of a strategic location and was followed by slow, gradual advances in other areas. Overall, the regime is moving ahead in its effort to obtain control of Syria’s central axis from Damascus to Aleppo, with extensions westward towards the Alawite region and the coast and southward in the direction of Daraa.
Ironically, the use of chemical weapons against its own population in August ended with an achievement of sorts for the regime that used them. It was given a new lease on life as it became an indispensable partner for the implementation of the American-Russian agreement.
On the ground, the Syrian National Council (SNC) is weak, divided, and devoid of influence. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) under General Salim Idris has not been able to become the dominant military organization. Jihadi groups, most notably al-Nusra Front and ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), seem to be the most effective component of the opposition, but their vision, program, and conduct in the areas they control are abhorrent to the Syrians and to the international community.
The Saudis seem to be the major force behind the new “Islamic Front,” an umbrella organization composed of several Islamist groups that are neither jihadi nor close to the Muslim Brotherhood. The opposition, which in 2012 and early 2013 seemed to be able to defeat the regime, now seems unable to achieve this. The regime has momentum on its side, but its prospect of reestablishing itself effectively throughout Syria is dim. The writer was Israel’s Chief Negotiator with Syria (1992-1995) and Israeli ambassador to the U.S. (1993-1996). (Institute for National Security Studies)
New voices are rising in Washington that Syrian President Bashar Assad could find quite comforting. Former CIA head Michael Hayden said he sees three possible outcomes for the Syrian struggle, none involving a victory for the rebels. “Option three is Assad wins,” Hayden said at the Jamestown Foundation conference of terror experts. “As ugly as it sounds, I’m kind of trending toward option three as the best out of three very, very ugly possible outcomes.” The other two are an escalating war between Sunni and Shi’ite extremists and Syria’s dissolution into battling cantons.
Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Syria, told theNew York Times that “bad as Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadiswho would take over in his absence.” (Ha’aretz)