Has Assad really won the war?

By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed

 

What I’ve heard most during the past three months is that the Syrian revolution has faded out and that the Syrian people’s aspirations to get rid of Bashar al-Assad’s repressive regime have come to an end. Is it true that the Syrian people have failed after two years and a half of blood, sweat and tears?

Sowing despair is one of the many weapons of war. It’s normal for some people to feel this. Among those who feel desperate are those who spent two winters at refugee camps and live with little money and those who are besieged and haven’t left their homes or neighborhoods for long months and live off water from wells and are about to run out of the food stored. There are also the millions of Syrians who have been displaced for over a year now and are currently homeless whether inside or outside Syria. What further aggravates the situation are the divisions among the rebel fighters and their disputes over leaderships at a time when they are receiving little arms and ammunition supplies.

What’s more horrific than that are the jihadist groups forcing misery upon the people of liberated lands to the point where the latter are now protesting against the groups and calling for their expulsion just like they’ve previously protested against Assad’s forces. Al-Qaeda groups have also stabbed Syrian rebels in the back, distracted them from their duties and targeted their leaders. Although the rebels weakened Assad’s forces and were close to defeating Assad at the beginning of this year, Iranians, Russians and members of Hezbollah and Iraqi militias rushed to Assad’s aid, sent thousands of trained fighters to fill the vacuum and succeeded in gaining back some of the positions the regime has lost.

Therefore, it’s no wonder that some think this is the end of the Syrian revolution and that it is awaiting to be buried. This belief is also being exaggerated by the propaganda of Assad and his allies by spreading news of the rebels’ field losses and of the opposition’s disputes.

Tilting the scales

It’s true that the rebels are in a crisis and are incapable of progressing. But it’s not true that Assad’s regime is in the situation of a victor despite the fact that his forces gained some of the positions it previously lost. Truth is, the rebels are steadfast amid much more difficult circumstances, and they still control most of the areas they gained last year in north, south and east Syria. Their capabilities have not weakened as much as the regime’s capabilities improved as a result of the thousands of trained fighters which Iran and its allies sent. Despite this huge support with men and arms, Assad’s regime is incapable of finalizing the battle, and it has failed to attain several significant victories. Proof to that is that gaining control over Qusayr is the greatest of its victories. But the regime has failed in Homs, Aleppo, Rif Dimashq and Daraa. It shells them with warplanes, tanks and cannons and uses chemical weapons without achieving decisive victories. The checkpoints and the few towns it gained after all the force it used foretells the regime’s inevitable defeat later.

Since Assad only controls around 40% of Syria – and it’s not a comprehensive control – then what’s to come will alter the balance of power against him. What’s silently happening, after months of discussions and negotiations, are important achievements that will probably alter the balance of war in favor of the revolution. They finished establishing the political structure which was expanded in a manner where the coalition became a council for all the Syrians. This put an end to those who were protesting against being eliminated. In order to prevent turning the Syrian revolution into another Somalia or Afghanistan, work is currently underway to organize military powers and isolate them from jihadi groups. This is the Syrians’ revolution against Assad’s regime. Groups with other agendas, like al-Qaeda and al-Nusra Front, must not hijack this revolution. Therefore, countries that sell advanced weapons and that fear that these weapons fall in the hands of groups which in the future attack their embassies and down their civil airplanes, will no longer have an excuse not to provide advanced weapons.

The Syrians have corrected the chaos threatening Syria, Syrians and the West. It will take time to isolate the groups which infiltrated the rebels. But rebels have begun to receive advanced weapons. An observer on the matter thinks that the Syrian rebels will at some point no longer need a no-fly zone and that the rebels will be capable of threatening the regime’s jets and will once again besiege the capital, Damascus.

A man involved in political work confirms that despite what western countries tell their people, the former has really become a party involved in funding arms and providing information. He adds that western countries want to pressure Assad and the Russians to accept a political solution that almost completely ends the current regime and that does not end it as per the Russian-Iranian solution which accepts Assad’s exit but wants to keep security, military and financial institutions in the hands of the regime.

Finally, I still think that no matter what Russia and Iran grants Assad and no matter how much western countries insist not to grant their advanced weapons to the rebels, it’s impossible that the Syrian revolution’s clock turns back. What’s done is done, and if the regime ever survives, it will only survive besieged in its sectarian zones.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 21, 2013.

 

Opinions do not necessarily reflect the view of ARA News.

 

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