Syrian regime is reaching a point of no return

Syrian regime is reaching a point of no return
4 min read
27 April, 2015
The balance of power has shifted in Syria with the regime struggling to contain opposition from within and without, as Tehran hints it may ditch Assad.
Bashar al-Assad struggles to stay in power as rebels advance on all fronts [Getty]
In the last few days, the Syrian regime dealt several heavy blows on the northern front.

The rebels' coalition in Idlib, Jaysh al-Fateh, captured the city of Idlib earlier last week and the town of Jisr el-Shughour Saturday.

In doing so, the rebels disconnected Latakia, Assad's stronghold, from Syria's largest city, Aleppo, and secured the route to Hama and Homs. 

The government supply lines from the coast to northern and central Syria were technically cut.

Assad has blamed Turkey for the fall of Idlib, saying Ankara provided "huge support" — logistical and military — that played the key role in the defeat of his forces.

'Battle of Victory'

Al-Nusra Front and Syrian rebel factions have controlled the countryside and towns across Idlib province since 2012.

After the fall of the city of Idlib, the government moved its offices and staff to Jisr al-Shughour.

The rebels chased the regime into Jisr al-Shughour, in a battle they referred to as the "Battle of Victory".

The so-called "Battle of Victory" began Wednesday and activists have said thousands of fighters took part in the offensive.

The recipe for victory in Jisr al-Shughour came from the victory of Idlib city.

First, al-Nusra Front attacked regime bases, checkpoints, and gates with car bombings.  

Then, as regime reacted to the bombings, the rebels hit tanks and vehicles with US-made TOW anti-tank missiles.

Following the first two stages, regime forces struggled with rebels' guerrilla tactics.

The government conceded its forces had left the town. A military official, quoted by Syrian state media, said regime forces redeployed to surrounding villages to avoid civilian casualties after fierce battles with "armed terrorist groups" in Jisr al-Shughour.

The town of Jisr al-Shughour was one of the first towns to rise against Assad's regime, but has largely remained under government control despite briefly falling to the rebels in early 2011.

Assad on defensive

Activists say the fall of the town is also of symbolic significance because a military camp on the town's outskirts had been used to target much of Idlib's countryside, leading to many casualties.

The next day after securing Jisr el-Shughour, the regime's Qarmeed military camp in the northeast of Idlib was overrun by Jaysh el-Fateh.

With this victory, the regime is only left with Mastoumeh camp in the south of Idlib province.

Syrian aircrafts retaliated with heavy bombardment across Idlib and the northeast.

The Jisr al-Shughour activist coordinating committee's Facebook page also put the death toll at 34, after Sunday attack on the town of Darkoush, near the Turkish border.

The Syrian Civil Defence, a prominent Syrian organisation of rescue workers from local communities, reported Chlorine gas attack in Kafaraweed, southern Idlib. 

In Aleppo, rebel factions created a new joint operations room, "Fateh Aleppo", to combat regime forces and secure the northern entrance of the city.

The joint room excludes al-Nusra Front, who has been a key ally in most battles.

The regime's second attempt to advance into Daraa in the south seemed to have stalled.

Despite the surpise attack on Busr al-Harir, northeast Daraa, the rebel factions were able to hold their grounds.

Regime forces also failed to retake several towns in the southern suburbs of Damascus.

On all fronts, the balance of power has shifted and the regime is on the defensive. 

IS exploits the regime's situation to take over Hasakah, the regime's last town on the northeast border with Iraq.

Iran hints at ditching Assad

As Assad's forces show signs of exhuastion and lose significant cities and towns, the Syrian regime struggles with opposition from within.

Munzer al-Assad was detained this month following claims of plotting a coup to replace his cousin, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

A month earlier, military intelligence chief, Rafiq Shehadeh, was fired after allegedly protesting the increasing role of Iran in the war.

Under similar circumstances, Rustum Ghazaleh, 62, a general and former head of the army's political security directorate, died last week.

Both intelligence chiefs were dismissed from their jobs by the Syrian president. 

Recent comments from Hezbollah commanders and Iranian officials hinted at a possible Iranian compromise that can see Assad unseated.

As Assad is further cornered in Damascus, Iran would rather grab a bargain than see all its effort over the years in Syria go to waste.

The compromise would see Hezbollah and Iran frame the departure of Assad as a protection of the Syrian state. 

With such framing, the loss would be undertoned and the political process can move forward.

This is becoming inevitable as Turkish-Saudi rapprochement on Syria bring tangible results on the battlefront.