Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 15, 2014

Syria: A "Stalemate" When One Side Is Advancing?

From an AFP story on Syria: Syria troops advance in rebel bastion as war enters year 4

[A]n insurgency became full-scale civil war after the regime bombed the central city of Homs in February 2012. Two years later, the war appears to have reached stalemate, with some predicting it could last another 10 or 15 years.
The regime is advancing on three fronts, south of Damascus, in the strategic Qalamun region and in Aleppo in the north.

How can this be a "stalemate" when one side is advancing on three important fronts?

Also this: Pro-regime Sunni fighters in Aleppo defy sectarian narrative

The piece talks about Sunnis fighting in local defense groups on the government side. Such reports were lacking in "western" media and that makes it welcome. But the writer still keeps up the "it is a sectarian fight" nonsense by neglecting that the soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army, as well as the government, have been and are in their majority Sunnis.

Adding: Contrast the "stalemate" fairy tale to this from next week's Swoop:

Regarding Syria, US attention has dropped precipitately, with the result that US intelligence analysts are warning that Assad is making military gains that will be near impossible to reverse. One analyst commented to us: “Assad has as good as won.”

Posted by b on March 15, 2014 at 17:25 UTC | Permalink


Who are these imaginary western Neo-Nazis and fascists? The only reality I see is Putin was a former KGB spy who is invading a country where half the population dislikes Russia. Yanukovych, a Kremlinbot was notoriously corrupt and the Ukraine middle class would benefit from a Pro-Eu government (and WANTS it). Putin has threatened not allowing UN inspectors to observe Russia's vast nuclear stockpile. Why? The Wax-faced actor is a tyrant who rigs elections, the Crimean referendum doesn't even have an option to NOT join Russia. Putin has called the dissolving of the USSR "the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century". No Mr. Putin it was not, here is a tyrant living in the past, trying to recreate the past, and benefiting no one but himself. The biggest victims in this fiasco are innocent Russians who will sustain a worsening quality of life as a result of one man's zeppelin size ego.

1. Russia invaded Ukraine and broke international law.
2. Putin lost any credibility when he lied on camera and claimed there were no Russian soldiers in Crimea.
3. Russia has been consistently unable to provide ANY EVIDENCE AT ALL of the right-wing sentiment it suggests is a threat to others in Ukraine.

Posted by: Haylight | Mar 15 2014 17:41 utc | 1


Wrong the very least.

Posted by: Dr. Wellington Yueh | Mar 15 2014 18:02 utc | 2

#1 wrong thread, troll

on topic: as more or less casual reader of a (i think) wide range of news sources, I wonder how the apparent "progress" of the syrian army does not lead to any decisive victories.
Or, to put it in a different way, I'm always a little lost with the descriptions of the tactical situations. On one hand, there's much talk of spatial advances of defences like in Aleppo or Hama. On the other hand I think that terrorist action, car bombs, ide etc. aren't the type of methods that require to conquer or own any actual territory.
So after all, I read about advances for almost 3 years now but the only advance that (as far as i can tell) has been a real win seems to have been the taking of al-qusair. So I take it with a grain of salt, but as long as gcc and other countries pay insurgents to create chaos in Syria, it seems unlikely to come to any solid peace there, no?

Posted by: peter radiator | Mar 15 2014 18:03 utc | 3

#1 Look up Svoboda or Right Sector instead of bitching here. And if youre going to troll AT LEAST TROLL THE CORRECT THREAD.

Im half tempted to jokingly bitch on the Ukraine topic about Assad now ^_^

Posted by: Massinissa | Mar 15 2014 18:18 utc | 4

Hola chicos, this is once again showing that the USA has way overextended itself. It's fighting on what I think is too many fronts.
Latin America;
Maduro is still holding on.
Bachelet wins in Chile.
Leftist from FMLN in El Salvador, wins.
Correa in Ecuador is as popular as ever.
Evo Morales from Bolivia will begin a tour of Latin American capitals.
The USA has declared the PLD in Dominican Republic it's enemy.
Ollanta Humala is still on the fence in Peru.
But overall this means Washington will have to pump even more money to combat these foes, which are of the USA's own making.
Eso es todo muchachos, hasta luego.

Posted by: Fernando | Mar 15 2014 18:44 utc | 5

Uuuy Haylight do you have hayfever?
I don't want to insult you but your comments are the type of comments brainwashed MSM monkeys make all the time on CNN.
Don't lower yourself to that level, okay Hay?

Posted by: Fernando | Mar 15 2014 18:48 utc | 6

@peter radiator | 3

"I wonder how the apparent "progress" of the syrian army does not lead to any decisive victories."

Because its extremely hard and time consuming to decisively win in a guerrilla warfare. Entire NATO couldnt defeat jihadis in Afghanistan in over a decade, and many even consider NATO have lost.

Granted, NATO didnt had majority of locals support, Assad does, and thats the crucial aspect in guerrilla war. Syria havent decisively won yet because of almost unlimited funding and arms flowing from all directions, Syria is literally surrounded by enemies. Jihadis are resupplying their cannon fodder from all over the World as well. Just local wahhabis without outside support could have been crushed in months, max.

Posted by: Harry | Mar 15 2014 18:54 utc | 7

#7 Harry

Yes, that's about how I see it, too. Maybe it's just a terminology thing, but how would one measure advances or progress in such a scenario. What I read there are in fact some (geographical, spatial) areas that are controlled by the djihadis, like in Aleppo. Most of all, I wonder why the regular army hasn't been able to take control there.
Then, there's the terrorist threat that's not bound or related to territory, like driving a truck into a checkpoint and that stuff.

I'm really a military illiterate, but the way I understand it, you can not completely control the latter. But I still find the territorial situation somewhat confusing. If there are actual territories controlled by the insurgents, isn't it possible for a regular army to go there and re-take administrative control?

It seems that insurgent attacks are more like "raids" to take over a town or a military base and hold it for a while, then to be pushed back again. But in that case, can one speak of advances at all?

Posted by: peter radiator | Mar 15 2014 19:16 utc | 8

Many Sunni do indeed back Assad,and will continue to do so, when to support the opposition would mean Sharia law, smoking and listening to music banned, women forced to wear burkas, all enforced by sword wielding bigots. Algeria suffered from the same Jehadis in the early 1990's then the Jehadis turned on the ordinary sunni muslims because they were not pious enough, lets hope Assad wipes them out.

Posted by: harrylaw | Mar 15 2014 19:32 utc | 9

I'm wondering what all the changes going on in Saudi Arabia are going to mean for the takfiri militants.

Saudi Arabia seems to be trying to desperately clean house in the run up to the visit by Obama, going so far as to demand that all Saudi citizens fighting in Syria return home and "turn themselves in". This, though, is nothing more than cover for the fact that desertions from the militants seem to be increasing as more and more fighters become disgusted with the politics and infighting.

Saudis make up the largest number of foreigners fighting in Syria...[a]n Interior Ministry official also declined to elaborate how Saudi Arabia would deal with returning jihadists.

Last week, Saudi television for the first time aired the comments of a Saudi militant who returned home. The 25-year-old man described rebel groups now fighting each other in Syria.

In Syria, a rebel in the opposition-held north said Monday that "a lot" of Saudi fighters were trying to leave the country, more out of disillusionment over infighting among insurgents than the Saudi government's 15-day deadline, the rebel said.

The question is wether those returning will begin to cause trouble at home or look for new places to cause trouble. No doubt that nothing would please the NAZO powers by relighting the fuse in Chechnya, but will the disgruntled fighters be easily convinced to go on another crusade, or will they decide that London, Paris, and Rihyad make easier and more deserving targets?

The Saudi dispute with Qatar continues unabated, with Saudi Arabia is laughably demanding that Qatar shut down Al Jazeera.

Things aren't even going well for the Saudis in Egypt, where their billions are being drained by a massive strike wave. It is certainly good news that all those Saudi dollars will end up in the hands of the Egyptian workers, though I can't imagine the Saudis are too pleased about it. The answer to this latest unrest seems to be to jail even those who supported their military take over in the first place.


@5 Viva! The Yankees are actually looking pretty silly now, huh? Leading a pack of "suicide politicians" into a bear cave half the world away, meanwhile they're getting their ass kicked in their own backyard. Venezuela should be a beacon for all the anti-imperialist nations everywhere. The awakening of Latin America is the single most hopeful phenomena on the planet right now.

Posted by: guest77 | Mar 15 2014 20:07 utc | 10

I would rather be cautious with premature announcements regarding any real and decisive victory for the regime forces (SAA, NDF...).
As one user said the regime is not fighting only a Syrian insurgency but an international Jihadist attack. Day after day millions of arab and non-arab Sunni muslim youth are subject to the sectarian propaganda delivered by mosque Imams as well as various arabic satellite channels.
Given that only a small faction of Sunni muslims live in Europe it is frightening to know that at least 2000 of them are in Syria. Now imagine what recruiting potential is available if one looks at Syrias mostly Sunni neighbour states/areas plus North Africa, Central Asia, etc.
On top of all of this some of the most wealthy arab nations plus their "private donors" are pouring millions of USD into the conflict to pay fighters and fund their arms.
Already the Syrian rebels are in possession of lethal weapons of which other rebels elsewhere (e.g. the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, the LTTE in Sri Lanka, the FARC in Columbia) could only dream about.
In less than 3 years some 2000 armoured vehicles (tanks, BMPs..) and 200+ fighter aircraft have been destroyed while the regular regime is under sanctions and more and more lacking the financial means to purchase weapons. Still one hears on a daily basis the rebel whining about the lack of (even more) MANPADs and ATGMs.
Not enough, Israel and half of Nato are hell bent on making the Syrian regime fall.

Posted by: Kerkaraje | Mar 15 2014 20:08 utc | 11

@peter But I still find the territorial situation somewhat confusing. If there are actual territories controlled by the insurgents, isn't it possible for a regular army to go there and re-take administrative control?

Yes it is. But at a very high cost of soldiers' lives and therefore not sustainable. The trick is to decimate the enemy without losing too much of ones own forces. To do this the Syrian army surrounds insurgents strongpoints, cuts them off and then uses artillery and aerial bombs to cut the enemy down. After a while the local insurgents will give up and be ready to make peace or, when the real nuts jihadists have the lead, they will either be dead after a while or will be killed in a final assault.

A year ago mortars were landing in Damascus city. Now the surrounding of the city has been cleared. Lines of communication to Aleppo and Homs which were broken have been reestablished. Homs is mostly cleared while the insurgents in Aleppo are now nearly surrounded and cut off from reinforcements. Qusair had to be cleared because it was used as a logistical pathway from Lebanon and threatened the line between Damascus and Aleppo. The south border towards Jordan is mostly blocked though there is still danger from there.

This all took so long because the army first had to conserve force, retreat and to find new ways to fight this unusual enemy. New methods were found. Local militias were established and trained to hold ground after the army cleared it. A new generation of battle experienced officers and NCO's took over.

Then the Syrian army could again go forward and did so successfully. Now, if other things do not change, winning is just a question of time. There will be residual terrorism left that will take long to clear up. But it will not be an existential or military danger.

Posted by: b | Mar 15 2014 20:08 utc | 12

@peter radiator | 8

If there are actual territories controlled by the insurgents, isn't it possible for a regular army to go there and re-take administrative control?

Initially Syrian army wasnt prepared to fight such war at all, it took 1-2 years of Iran/Hezbollah training and daily battles to learn how-to.

The way I understand it goes like this:

Terrorists invade some town or district. They fortify their positions, prepare underground tunnels, place snipers, RPG launchers and mine the roads. (Keep in mind a lot of them fought in multiple wars and some are being trained by the best special forces in the World - US, UK, Israel's, etc.)

How can you deal with it?

a) SAA can level to the ground these blocks within days (lets say entire Allepo's districts) but terrorists would just move elsewhere, whack-a-mole game and soon there wouldnt be any cities left, just ruins, with heavy civilian casualties too. So this quicker solution a la NATO style is non starter.

b) Surround and snuff operations. Its much, much harder to storm well fortified positions with armed to the teeth jihadis who arent afraid to die. To reclaim each house is a battle, and remaining jihadis move to another house underground, rinse and repeat.

Regardless of high cost and difficulty, there is simply no better tactic when fighting in own cities. This way at least civilian casualties are minimized and something from the cities remains.

SAA is increasingly good at it, and after districts are cleared, local defense units secure them. It sometimes happens that thousands jihadist again overrun NDF and clearing has to be repeated, but I hear less and less of such incidents, and SAA regains more and more of lost territory.

Thats why we hear about advancing army in many fronts, with many experts claiming along the lines “Assad has as good as won.” Of course it doesnt mean the war is over, its still few years from the finish IMO, and still random terror bombings will probably happen years if not decades later.

Posted by: Harry | Mar 15 2014 20:13 utc | 13

The sacking of "Bandar Bush " in the KSA and his replacement with someone who has recalled all Saudi "soldiers" fighting the govt. in Syria has got to be a signifigant developement..since this is a proxy war it comes down to, who is pulling the strings? - Why should the Americans pour money into Syria now they have overthrown Ukraine? - Of course that line of question would only show the questioner just doesn't know the Americans very well..An opposite theory may also be true, that Bandars' threat to use Chechen terrorists again the Sochi Olympics was one outrage too many and precipitated some kind of private "response" From Russia which, apparently. sufficiently motivated the Saudis.

Posted by: Solerso | Mar 15 2014 21:13 utc | 14

#12;I was about to make that lingering terrorism point myself.Hopefully your scenario works out,but until the Israelis and their benefactor,US are defanged,hopefully US electorally,I am not so sure.Evil never sleeps.

Posted by: dahoit | Mar 15 2014 22:45 utc | 15

#12,13 b,Harry

thanks guys, these are some helpful explanations that seem to make sense in the overall picture one gets from reading between the lines of everyday news coverage. So it's not so much of traditional warfare "gaining ground" but accomplishments are better measured in increasing security and fewer raids on infrastrucutre / strongpoints. That goes along well with the decreasing news coverage (at least in western media) on Syria. Let's hope that some stability in civil life can be established in Syria; if ever they could feel sure about russia's help, it's probably now, which is a good thing.

Posted by: peter radiator | Mar 15 2014 23:16 utc | 16

Terrorists moving towards Syria

Apparently another "busload" of terrorists is on its way to Syria. Pakistani/Saud deal is starting to take shape.

Posted by: Gehenna | Mar 15 2014 23:26 utc | 17

@7 Harry.

Fighting is extremely hard in urban areas especially when the terrorists have dug out tunnels in every town they take. I recommend you watch videos uploaded by Anna news on YouTube. You will notice the complexity of the fighting the terrorists.

Army is advancing but demining the roads and houses take a lot of time for engineers to disarm. Terrorists almost always Booby trap their locations when retreating.

Another major victory is the city of yarbood, wwhich is almost over.

Posted by: Shoes | Mar 16 2014 0:24 utc | 18

I am far from sure that Yabrood is "almost over", given these two videos (view both of them):

It is the same day, guy and place and he manages to blast two tanks.

Unless SAA/NDF manage to kill/capture at least 2-3.000 rebels the mere taking of the city will not have much value given the enormous numbers of tank losses there (if I am not wrong some 25+ tanks were destroyed there alone).

Cutting off rebel supply lines from Lebanon was fine a year ago but with rebels getting upscaled supply from Jordan the value of Yabrood depends on the number of rebel casualties and their loss of material.

Posted by: KerKaraje | Mar 16 2014 1:10 utc | 19

A plague on Saudi apes who have participated in the destruction of the mosaic of Syrian civilization. Retrograde bastards, what they did to these poor people should never be forgiven or forgotten.
They deserve all kinds of vicious payback.

Posted by: Prey4 Justice | Mar 16 2014 2:06 utc | 20

I like the post by haylight, he must think he's on the Guardian. Lots of confused dumbshits there.

Syrian Perspective...enjoy Ziad's info on that site, what do some of you guys make of it? Some people I know think it is just pro regime propaganda.

Posted by: Prey4 Justice | Mar 16 2014 2:15 utc | 21

@3 Peter Radiator
Harry Explained the jihadist infiltration tactics pretty well, so I'll just leave you with this link. He posts good maps of current fighting, to give you some spatial sense of what's happening where. You can also follow the rebel information outlet syrian observatory to get a feel for which backwater village the rebels have decided to occupy each day.

Posted by: Crest | Mar 16 2014 2:54 utc | 22

@21 Prey4 Justice
Ziad is a member of the Baath party, and he calls dead rebels diseased hyenas, so it's not like he hides his bias like the msm. He posts real time info that is very hard to get anywhere else, and is funny. They do leave out rebel victories, so you can't get a full picture, but it's required reading if you want to keep up on the day to day of the Syrian war.

Posted by: Crest | Mar 16 2014 3:37 utc | 23

Jarba in a state of panic at the imminent collapse of the rebels and their 'moral' jihadi friends

Supporters of the Syrian opposition dubbed 'Friends of Syria' have been urged to back the Syrian opposition with military arms urgently by their leader, Ahmad Al-Jarba.

"Syrians are in a cruel battle against the Hezbollah's immoral gangs," said Jarba and accused Iran of being the mastermind behind the Syrian regime.

Posted by: Virgile | Mar 16 2014 5:16 utc | 24

No more "Syrian's regime army", no more "Bashar Al Assad's army". major Western media are discreetly switching to "Syrian Forces' or 'Syrian Troops'.
Maybe it has to do with this:

On third anniversary of Syrian rebellion, Assad is steadily winning the war
By Liz Sly, Published: March 15

BEIRUT — Three years into the revolt against his rule, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is in a stronger position than ever before to quell the rebellion against his rule by Syrians who rose up to challenge his hold on power, first with peaceful protests and later with arms.

Aided by the steadfast support of his allies and the deepening disarray of his foes, Assad is pressing ahead with plans to be reelected to a third seven-year term this summer while sustaining intense military pressure intended to crush his opponents.

Posted by: Virgile | Mar 16 2014 5:26 utc | 25

Posted by: KerKaraje | Mar 15, 2014 9:10:28 PM | 19

Cutting off rebel supply lines from Lebanon was fine a year ago but with rebels getting upscaled supply from Jordan the value of Yabrood depends on the number of rebel casualties and their loss of material.

Hey Mr Armchair, you seem to know better then the master of guerilla and urban warfare, Hezbollah on tactics. Go advise your Hollywood SEALS.

Posted by: Hans | Mar 16 2014 7:59 utc | 26

KerKaraje | Mar 15, 2014 9:10:28 PM | 19

OK I viewed both videos. It showed someone firing what I presume is an antitank rocket. In both cases the launch is from exactly the same position but shot from slightly different angles. The same guy is firing the missile. In one case the target is a black smoking object, quite stationary, that is perched on the skyline of the opposing hill. Is that supposed to be a tank. The rebels have had antitank missiles for over two years. Are we supposed to believe that Syrian tank commanders park their tanks on skylines in combat zones? Somehow, I think they might have learned that it is important to keep their tanks hidden just a little bit. In the second video the target is again totally stationary on the side of the hill facing the shooter. Again not hidden. What evidence that either of these targets are Syrian tanks and if so that they were actually engaged in combat. If further so, why would the second tank not take a shot at the missile launching site once the it was exposed by the first firing. Or at least turn itself into a moving, rather than stationary, target. If you are presenting these videos to show that the Allah Akbar screaming guys are winning the war by destroying tanks that are not defending themselves in any way I think you have been duped by some really crude propaganda.

Posted by: ToivoS | Mar 16 2014 8:56 utc | 27

"@12 b Then the Syrian army could again go forward and did so successfully. Now, if other things do not change, winning is just a question of time. There will be residual terrorism left that will take long to clear up. But it will not be an existential or military danger.

In Syria, the US and its allies thought to have planed, financed and organized a war against this country. In reality, during these last three years, all their planning, their spending of large sums, arms-smuggling to the insurgents ect. served in the end as a first class training-program for the SAA. The Syrian army and government today are much stronger than in 2011. The government also finds much more support in the country than before 2011. Today Syrian society seems to be well prepared to withstand further attacks.
If continued Israeli provocations against Syria lead to a war between Syria and Israel, the SAA, with all the battle experience it was able to obtain during the last three years, might do quite well against the Israeli forces. In reality, the US and its allies, with their war against Syria, have helped to create a situation in which the future of their Israeli colony looks more and more bleak.

Posted by: alpino | Mar 16 2014 13:11 utc | 28

@alpino - agree somewhat - the war will have cost Syria a lot of lives and material. Should Israel decide to make a tank run into Syria it will still be hard to stop. The landscape is quite ideal flat tank country. Battle experience does not change that so much. Where it would count is in fighting in the cities.

For Hizbullah the experience factor may be more important. It has a nearly ideal defensive land in Lebanon to defend and would now certainly be better at doing so. It now has lots more trained and battle hardened soldiers than it had ever before.

Posted by: b | Mar 16 2014 16:04 utc | 29

Well it looks like the battle the battle for Yabrud is now over. Looks like the Salafists have lost another supply link to their forces in the Damascus region. Guardian

Posted by: ToivoS | Mar 16 2014 19:49 utc | 30

"Given that only a small faction of Sunni muslims live in Europe it is frightening to know that at least 2000 of them are in Syria."

On the other hand, given the islamophobia in Europe and the extremely high youth unemployment rate, it could be argued that it is surprising that more young muslims don't sign up for a job, with very good prospects, according to the US/Saudi recruiters. It wasn't long ago that all the MSM were predicting imminent victory for the "jihadists": the prospect of loot and the possibility of getting into the good books of the ruling class, not to mention being on the ground when the new government started handing out patronage must have made going to Syria, via Turkey or Jordan, and escaping the racism and hopelessness of life in Bradford, Nantes or Frankfort pretty attractive.

Posted by: bevin | Mar 17 2014 3:07 utc | 31

"The landscape is quite ideal flat tank country."

What does that mean?

"Battle experience does not change that so much."

Say what?

Posted by: scalawag | Mar 17 2014 4:07 utc | 32

The comments to this entry are closed.