Assad has crossed a new line on bread"The Syrian government increased the price of a standard bundle of bread (1.55 kilograms) to 35 Syrian pounds ($0.19) from 25 Syrian pounds on Jan. 17. While food was once a critical tool used to appease loyal populations and punish the opposition, the bread price hike suggests that the regime is feeling the pangs of its depleting resources. Cutting food supplies to rebel-held areas and channeling the bulk of humanitarian aid to government-approved zones has made the regime “the only reliable source of life-sustaining food.” Ensuring supplies to areas under regime control is crucial to Assad’s political calculus, as is depriving those areas deemed loyal to opposition forces. Deliberate scarcities harm adversaries, or those unlucky enough to be under their jurisdiction. In besieged districts, bread and flour deliveries not sanctioned by the regime are completely banned. When battles break out, finding bread becomes an impossible task. In opposition-held territories, flour shortages and supply disruptions mean that bread has been glaringly absent, although efforts by ISIS and other groups to distribute bread illustrate how central food is to sustaining popular support. The severe fuel crisis that Syria is undergoing, and the corresponding increase in the cost of producing bread, is slowly diminishing the regime’s ability to maintain crucial subsidies. U.S. airstrikes on ISIS-controlled oil-production sites in Deir al-Zor, well-known for supplying oil to the regime, have drained the government of its energy resources, a problem further exacerbated by its collapsing electricity infrastructure and interruptions in the delivery of tanker oil from Iraq and Iran. The collapse of the bread subsidy, once so central to the government’s social contract, suggests that the regime is being pushed to its limits. Bread is no longer a red line; now mere survival is."