February 10, 2015
The Syrian Government Counterattack In The South
Notice the wording in this Reuters headline: Syrian government launches offensive against rebels in south
For Reuters Syria now has - again - a "government", and not a "regime" as Reuters had labeled the Syrian government for a quite a while. That is an important change.
The report says:
Syria's army gained ground from rebels in the south on Tuesday in what a monitoring group described as a large-scale offensive in the region backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters against insurgents including al Qaeda's Syrian wing.
"The operation started two days ago and is very big," Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, said on Tuesday.
Abdulrahman said the offensive aims to take a triangle of rebel-held territory from rural areas southwest of Damascus to Deraa city to Quneitra. Syrian media and rebel sources said on Tuesday that battles raged in several areas of southern Syria.
The south eastern triangle of Syria between the Golan and and Deraa had been taken by Jabhat al-Nusra (disguised as "moderate rebels") with the help of the Israelis and the U.S. dominated "operations room" in Jordan which distributes the weapons Saudi Arabia and others supplied. The general U.S. operation plan was, as we reported in September, to let Nusra attack Damascus from the south.
The current Syrian government operation, long in planning, is aimed at rolling back the Jabhat al_Nusra attack if possible down to the Jordan border. It is supported by Hizbullah (and Iranian?) fighters who will likely do most of work on the Golan heights.
Earlier Elijah J. Magnier reported on the operation:
#BreakingNews: #SAA called d mil ops n Quneitra/Daraa "Shuhada' al-Quneitra" referring 2 d #Israel/i attack killing 6 Hezbollah & 1 #Iran/ian
The ongoing huge military operation is run by #SAA and #Hezbollah in the south and SW of #Syria .
#Hezbollah considers this ops as a prevention to an ongoing #JN plan to attack #Lebanon from Hasbaiya and to endanger #Damascus". #Syria.
This is no doubt the communique' N. 2 of #Hezbollah to #Israel following the Shebaa Farms attack last week. #Syria #Lebanon.
("Shuhada" is the plural of "Shaheed" which means Martyr. "Shuhada' al-Quneitra" means "Martyrs of Quneitra".)
Several towns and areas were already reported cleared today but this likely will be a difficult and long fight.
The question is if or how Israel will try to disrupt this campaign by again supporting Jabhat al_Nusra with air attacks, artillery strikes and supplies. Hizbullah will surely have prepared some "surprises" to challenge any Israeli support to its enemies. Will the U.S. led operations room try to counter the Syrian attack? How? Will Jordan, now heavily involved against the Islamic State, now also shun the IS brethren Jabhat al-Nusra?
Posted by b on February 10, 2015 at 01:38 PM | Permalink
syrian gov't as opposed to syrian regime.. how refreshing them showing a degree of objectivity missing generally..
Posted by: james | Feb 10, 2015 1:51:46 PM | 1
It could just be objectivity. But it also could be what we all see coming. A roll-back of the strategy that the Obama Admin has been engaging to try and fight both Isis and the Syrian Army. This, coupled with the new leadership in Saudi means that Isis is largely on their own (Turkey notwithstanding - not really sure what they are up to anymore). Expect to see some fairly large changes in rhetoric in the Middle East over the next 12 months. The new gov't in SA is a tectonic shift.
Posted by: Base | Feb 10, 2015 2:13:18 PM | 3
@3 The plan to oust Assad was supposed to be cheap and quick. The result was Russia moving to Iran and Syria. Out of revenge, the Ukraine became a target, but again, the aggressors never got their populations on board. The #mh17 stuff was crazy.
Today, Egypt has moved into the Moscow-Beijing sphere which might include New Delhi. I think there was a tolerance for a Libya no-fly zone. One Italy and France would be impacted by a refugee crisis, and two, Gaddafi wasn't long for the world. His personality ran the country, not a functioning polity. Stepping back from day to day operations wouldnt work. His kids were too out there to be tolerable. Bashir Assad was brought to Syria because his older brother would not be tolerated. Over stepping the no fly zone changed future calculations, but I think the switch from "regime" to "government" is a sign at least Europe recognizes it's losing. The Saudis probably see it too, but this change was forced by other actors such as the new government in Yemen.
Posted by: NotTimothyGeithner | Feb 10, 2015 2:28:29 PM | 4
The KSA king, Salman, is reportedly more conservative than Abdulla, also was highly instrumental in funding the Mujahidin in Afghanistan. Personally I think he'll be more inclined to support IS.
Posted by: okie farmer | Feb 10, 2015 2:39:39 PM | 5
Just reading the angry reaction of the British press to the BBC interview with Bashar al Assad, is a clear sign that the president did an excellent and convincing job in the interview.
The Western press became hysterical with strong headlines trying to counter the calm and positive image Bashar al Assad had projected publicly. The West is still annoyed to admit that it has failed in all its predictions while Bashar al Assad warnings about terrorists take-over of the region is turning out to be true. It doesn't need to be convinced that ISIS can only be destroyed by a combination of aerial bombings and boots on the ground as the Kobani success shows.
Therefor the US and the EU are in the middle of a dilemma. Either they get the boots on the ground from the Syrian army and the shia fighters from Iraq and Lebanon or they provide their own. Yet no Western countries, or regional, or Arab is ready to send boots on the ground.
So it is obvious that after a certain time, whether if likes it or not, the West will have to cooperate with the "Syrian government" and not with the "Syrian regime".
Is Reuter slowly showing the way?
Posted by: Virgile | Feb 10, 2015 3:57:12 PM | 6
The other brother isn't older, but he wasn't living as a doctor in the UK.
Posted by: NotTimothyGeithner | Feb 10, 2015 4:29:42 PM | 9
IIRC Bashir Assad's brother is a military commander of an elite corps, the family enforcer if you like.
Posted by: Formerly T-Bear | Feb 10, 2015 4:50:53 PM | 10
The evolution of the Western attitude toward Syrian government had several phases.
First, it was categorized as "opponent", part of Iran-Iraq(?)-Syria-Hezbollah axis.
Second, marked as "intolerable tyranny" that should be removed by "all means necessary", through the support of the armed opposition as it was done in Libya.
Third, when it was clear that the opposition is dominated by "peripatetic jihadists" (my term) who would not form moderate pro-Western government, but could be (a) unfriendly toward Israel and (b) a bit insane, there was new policy, that of preventing either side to win. As the government was not collapsing, that meant support for the jihadists, but without giving them most lethal weapons. Eternal civil war in Syria would keep it weak and harmless, and drain resources from Iran. Pass the peanuts.
Now we are in fourth stage. Peripatetic jihadists proved to be more mobile than estimated, some of them returning home to France or OK, well trained, pretty mad, and capable of mayhem. Even isolated cases were more than Belgium, France or UK were ready to stomach for "the cause of freedom", which was already replaced by the goal of perpetual civil war.
Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 10, 2015 4:55:03 PM | 11
In five years, Assad will no longer be in power and Syria will be controlled chaos. It's simple mathematics.
Posted by: Cold N. Holefield | Feb 10, 2015 6:30:05 PM | 13
Assad's Crumbling Presidency
However, while Assad is still there nominally in power, a closer look reveals that he is more marginalised than ever and an increasingly irrelevant political actor on a stage dominated by others. This authoritarian facade must be taken into account in future policy towards the beleaguered country.
Half of the country have fled their homes, over 200,000 are dead and a million are wounded. The UN estimates that it will cost $8.4bn in 2015 to look after Syrians affected by war and more than 6,500 cases of typhoid and 4,200 cases of measles were reported in 2014.
Start by asking the question; what is Assad still president of? Half of the country have fled their homes, over 200,000 are dead and a million are wounded. The UN estimates that it will cost $8.4bn in 2015 to look after Syrians affected by war and more than 6,500 cases of typhoid and 4,200 cases of measles were reported in 2014.
Although "government forces" are supposedly in control of some 50 percent of the territory the devolution of power to militias as well as Iranian and Hezbollah forces means that Assad's command and control is stretched like never before.
Meanwhile in the east, ISIL runs a bus network out if its capital Raqqa and despite Kobane being in stalemate, the Kurds are increasingly sketching out the makings of a statelet in the northeast of the country.
The country's borders are disappearing as functional entities with talk of a Turkish buffer zone in the north and all sorts of foreign fighters (and John McCain) entering the country at will.
A recent Middle East Eye report outlined that the "Syrian economy has effectively ceased to function, and President Bashar al-Assad's government is almost entirely dependent on loans from Iran and some aid from the Russian Federation".
Towards the end of last year the desperate position saw Damascus even issue a new "Martyrs Stamp Duty", whose proceeds will go to the families of fallen soldiers and other militia members.
Posted by: Cold N. Holefield | Feb 10, 2015 6:48:11 PM | 14
#14: Thanks for the update on the latest Qatari/Muslim Brotherhood propaganda about Syria.
Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Feb 10, 2015 7:29:38 PM | 17
Can't say that this isn't getting interesting. Just who is calling the shots here? And then, oh well, this is what happens when a plan falls apart. Overestimating one side against one underestimated, again call into focus who planned this failure in the making? One really has to be either blind or stupid or both to not see the failures since 9-11 in this so-called War on Terror. 15 years, how many $Trillions, deaths, destruction? Anyone claiming success, needs to locked up in a padded cell for the duration. Time to bring the troops home, before it's too late.
Posted by: Norman | Feb 10, 2015 7:42:36 PM | 18
Add to those reactions, the CFR-affiliated, Deborah Amos, spins his interview for an NPR audience. In response to the question of why Assad has given two interviews to prominent Western news outlets in the past few weeks, Amos responds that he's doing it to boost his standing among the Syrian public who will see the interview on state-run TV (rather than that Western outlets are finally willing to actually give Assad a chance to state his case -- because it's becoming increasingly obvious that, in spite of the vast destruction outsiders have wreaked on Syria, his popularity among Syrians is high and he's not going anywhere).
Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Feb 10, 2015 8:27:57 PM | 19
About "simple mathematics": one of often cited examples is a proof that may beetle cannot fly, given the amount of muscles to move its wings and the weight. Yet it flies, so something had to be wrong with the assumptions.
Similarly, the military is depleted, economy is in ruins, but the Syrian beetle still flies. One thing is that a modern economy produces a considerable multiple of what is needed for mere survival, we do not live in Middle Ages. The second thing that a government usually does not simple fall apart, but opponents have remove it, and it is not just the government that has depleted assets, but also the opposition. And the opposition is split into (a) hopelessly fractious moderates, basically local brigands unable to coordinate, the favorite of the outside donors(b) medium-insane fanatics, al-Nusra, who hold their ground, coordinate much better than the moderates, and getting some aid from outside, c) fully insane fanatics, ISIS, most militarily effective but with least outside help -- allegedly none? I think that within a year ISIS will be removed from the picture, its current territory controlled by a combination of Iraqi army, Shia militias, Iranians, Kurds and Syrian forces, and chastised by the experience, these forces will cooperate and at the very least, avoid infighting. Once it happens, Syrian forces will not be overstretched anymore, and within a year they may control the country except for small pockets.
At that point, the West, Turkey, Jordan etc. will have to decide: keep sanctions on "the regime", and maintain gigantic refugee camps, or lift the sections and be relieved of the refugee problem?
Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 10, 2015 8:45:38 PM | 20
@20 piotr.. thanks for your posts.. i think sanctions are now a permanent part of the landscape.. it's an effective means of saying "we want to give peace a chance" while trying to destroy countries that don't go along with the agenda/game of finances. starving people seems to be something the west is okay with thanks it's support for financial sanctions.. i don't think we live in a civilized world.. i think the financial folks pulling the strings of many western world leaders today don't care about much other then exercising their power for money. it is all about the use and abuse of power for more power/money. i think sanctions are now permanent part of the world landscape..
Posted by: james | Feb 10, 2015 9:03:16 PM | 21
I hope we can review your predictions a year from now and determine if you are prescient or foolishly naïve. Many people have predicted the imminent demise of the Islamic State only to be disappointed but continue with wishful thinking not based in reality.
Posted by: Wayoutwest | Feb 10, 2015 9:08:42 PM | 22
A bit OT but interesting, everyone's favorite Devil Worshiping Yazidis in Sinjar Iraq are on a rampage against their Arab neighbors spreading murder and mayhem. Arming these wonderful folks to fight the IS may be creating another sectarian bloodbath.
Posted by: Wayoutwest | Feb 10, 2015 9:16:40 PM | 23
Completely off topic ... but couldn't wait. One has to love MSM: now Huffpost is reporting that Ukraina is a total economic basket case and cannot hold out much longer because ... really, no one has actually contributed very much to Kiev's govt.: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/10/ukraine-financial-crisis_n_6655748.html. Not to mention that the East is destroyed (and now they notice that it was an economic engine of the whole country). Who said that... if you break it... (but - certainly refreshing from the putin=devil reportage).
Posted by: GoraDiva | Feb 10, 2015 11:25:31 PM | 24
I see a whiff of prejudice in "Devil Worshiping". If I had to choose a religion, I would probably go for Shinto, with plenty of colorful festivals and not much of tedious and dubious dogma. Victims who are given help usually commit some acts of retribution, but it does not mean that one should never help the victims. More to my point, this is a story reported from an area where ISIL retreated. So far, this retreat is slow, but the pace can increase.
To some degree, ISIL emerged in Iraq, in part as a reaction to atrocities inflicted on Sunni there, so they may have some staying power there, but as a terrorist organization rather than a ruler of a certain area.
Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 10, 2015 11:46:26 PM | 25
You are probably right, I shouldn't have denigrated Devil Worshipers who would probably reject the behavior of the Yazidis.
The Islamic State's first target in Iraq was the Occupier who instigated the sectarian conflict. Their support is much more widespread than just Iraq and Syria as we are seeing in Egypt and more so in Libya and growing elsewhere, they are growing as an Idea more so than as an organization.
Posted by: Wayoutwest | Feb 11, 2015 12:27:01 AM | 26
itzik says it is imminent,just waiting for the isis regroup south west of al qusayr,the link up and final push to ersal in april.
Posted by: mcohen | Feb 11, 2015 1:48:45 AM | 27
Syrianperspective is indeed an excellent blog, with a brilliant Ziad Fadel and amazing commentators as well as informative links to other sites.
I like it almost as much as the Saker Blog, in fact what the Saker is for the events in the UKR, Ziad Fadel's blog is for Syria.
At times Ziad can also be very humorful like in this article about 'Liar of the Year Award'
The winner of the 2014 prize is no stranger to the wellspring of Satan’s most powerful craft. He has suckled from it since a child in the arms of his English mother, Antoinette Avril Gardiner. He has sipped it’s nectar as the son of the former Hashemite king of Jordan, no slouch himself when it came to bamboozling an entire Arab World. He scarfed it – nay – wolfed it down – as he became America’s “partner” in the war against terrorism.
He is none other than the Master of Medacity and the Prince of Profligacy, HIS HIGHNESS, KING ‘ABDULLAH II of the HASHEMITE KINGDOM OF JORDAN. (Wild applause)
....When one of your air force pilots is brutally burned to death by savages you helped to train and foster, it’s hard to keep a straight face when consoling the family of the poor aviator. But, that is exactly what this Lilliputian monarch is all about. He was even seen with the pilot’s father, managing to produce a tear of anguish as he bussed the old man in the traditional Arab manner on both grizzled cheeks. Most touching. Some witnesses swore they could detect a subtle snicker as the king moved away from the grieving parent.....
Posted by: Sufi | Feb 11, 2015 3:43:48 AM | 28
@14 "Start by asking the question; what is Assad still president of?"
So ask that same question of Abraham Lincoln in, oh, late August of 1862.
The dismal efforts of the Peninsular Campaign and the dreadful defeat at Second Bull Run would have made it inevitable that Lincoln would no longer be in power and The Union would be replaced by "controlled chaos".
Because, yeah, simple maths 'n' all....
Posted by: Johnboy | Feb 11, 2015 5:22:09 AM | 29
So ask that same question of Abraham Lincoln in, oh, late August of 1862.
Within five years of that date Lincoln was no longer in power. How unsurprisingly ironic of you.
Posted by: Cold N. Holefield | Feb 11, 2015 6:50:29 AM | 30
- Perhaps Hezbollah received some sort of hint out of Washington to be more aggressive against Israel ?
- Netanjahu giving a speech to Congress has undermined the position of Israel, even in the Middle East.
Obama & Kerry won't meet with him and if/when Netanjahu is giving his speech then vice president Biden won't attent that session. How clearer does the message have to be for Netanjahu ?
It will be interesting to see what the US reponse is going to be when/if Israel launches one or more airstrikes against Jabat-Al-Nusrah (JAN).
Posted by: Willy2 | Feb 11, 2015 10:29:36 AM | 31
Ziad Fadel AKA, the Syrian Goebbels is an interesting propagandist but most of his posts seem to be nothing more than reprints of SANA news releases, I do like the strange art work in the comments.
Posted by: Wayoutwest | Feb 11, 2015 11:55:04 AM | 32
@Wayoutwest | Feb 11, 2015 11:55:04 AM | 32
"Ziad Fadel AKA, the Syrian Goebbels is an interesting propagandist"
LOL, typical projection! Did u look at yourself in the mirror, "Wayoutwest"?
What a pathetic little insect you are...
Posted by: Luca K | Feb 12, 2015 10:02:55 AM | 33
Luca, your trite name-calling says more about your inadequacies than about my observations.
Posted by: Wayoutwest | Feb 12, 2015 11:44:45 AM | 34
With very unworthy remarks on "devil worshippers", Wayoutwest showed really strange and irrational type of bias. It is standard from some stringent monotheists to disparage polytheists in that way, so I thought that he is perhaps a Sunni radical, but perhaps he is an atheists with a penchant to view some religions as "even worse". In any case, the article that is the source describes the aftermath of a massacre and massive looting of Yazidi property in which some Yazidi units take back the looted hardware, and perhaps some, and engage in relatively minor massacres. Why relatively minor? Bakr Brigades were reported to do worse, and ISIL, worst of all. After several years of civil war this is a "new norm", if you do not stop the war, it will be just getting worse.
From the strategic perspective, the region of Sinjar seem to be necessary to control the southern desert connection between Iraq and Syria, hence the route of Iranian supplies for Syria. ISIL lost control there and the strategic loss is large. Second, YRP and Iranians in Syria and Iraq became "normal", any Western outrage is gone, and in case of YRP, they get air support when they fight ISIL. Syrian government once more has secure supply routes from both east and west, and the access to additional manpower. YRP seems an important factor, pro-Western Peshmerga seem to become almost as sedentary and corrupt as Iraqi military, with too many taxi drivers collecting half-pay to work away from their units (and deliver they other half of their pay to the officers).
Ziad Fadel does repeat SANA news releases, but so does BBC etc, if in different style. The brilliant offensive that we discuss seem to move the lines of control by some 2-5 kilometers, but 10 offensives like that would wipe out the rebel pockets.
Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 13, 2015 7:01:33 AM | 35