Saturday, 9 May 2015

Idlib, the Regime, and Militia Politics

Darth Nader inserts a note of caution into the discussion about rebel advances.
"The fall of the Syrian regime is not imminent. Assad’s forces are stretched thin and he is probably weaker than ever before in relative terms. Yet, his “core” provinces of (central) Damascus, Homs, and Latakia are, at this point, not under threat.  If any of these places were under threat, that would be cause for the regime to sound the alarm. The capture of Idlib city and Jisr ash-Shughur can possibly be read as a step towards that, yet, we need not overstate it as a leap. It is a small step. Defeating the regime in one of the areas it considers peripheral is very different than defeating it in one of its core provinces."
Certainly the most loyal troops and the most military equipment are reserved for the core areas. But I don't believe morale as opposed to fear of Assad is much higher in the areas. Unlike in 2013, ther is no prospect that the shoring up of the régime gives it long-term prospects of survival. The recent scare about top officials and their families being relocated to Lattakia will return the next time that Damascus is threatened, who is going to fight for a dictator who abandons you to continue his fight? I am also reminded of Bill Hicks' routine about Saddam's élite Republican guard.*
Darth Nader has something else important to say.
While it may not be the greatest threat to the regime, opposition control of Idlib—particularly the city—can have great strategic value if the opposition makes use of the opportunity to show that they can effectively and inclusively govern.A civilian and locally governed Idlib would indeed be a strategic blow to the regime in terms of what the alternatives to its rule are. While it may be naive to think that civilian residents can wrestle political power away from battle-hardened militias, the embeddedness of some of the militants in local society suggests that it may not be as unlikely as it has been in other areas, as fighters may be more responsive to local concerns and demands.

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