Tuesday, 6 December 2016

After Aleppo falls, Syria's bloodshed may continue

Haid Haid:

 'The recent activity in Aleppo, which has seen Syrian government forces retake control of large parts of the city, confirms that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria. Only a widely accepted political settlement can end the fighting and stitch the country back together.

 The internal divisions among rebel groups, their poor military performance and the lack of support channeled to them has led to speculation about the possibility of a military solution to the conflict in favor of the Syrian regime. These assumptions are likely jumping the gun: the regime controls less than a third of the country's territories. Restoring its grip on the rest of Syria faces huge challenges, both internally and externally.

 A small number of rebel fighters -- fewer than 1,000 -- were able to stop pro-regime forces from capturing the city of Daraya in rural Damascus for three years, despite all of the weapons used, including chemical attacks, airstrikes and starvation. The number of fighters in Aleppo is estimated to be around 8,000, which makes the chances of a swift victory less likely. Additionally, the majority of rebel groups in besieged Aleppo haverecently merged together, which improves their ability to defend the city.

 "The merger overcomes the divisions that allowed Assad to advance. Losing territories, which is bad in general, allows us to better defend the rest of our areas -- especially now that we have limited ammunition. Pro-regime forces will have to depend more on street fighting, which is in our favor because we know the area," said a fighter with the Aleppo's Army coalition on condition of anonymity.

 Despite the significance of Aleppo, the fate of the city alone is not a decisive factor in the Syrian conflict. Even if the rest of Aleppo falls, it is likely that rebel fighters and civilians who wish to leave will be allowed to move to Idlib's province -- as has happened in similar cases -- where they will continue to resist the Syrian regime. The number of Syrian rebels estimated to still be fighting in the country is around 150,000. In addition, the regional powers, namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, are still invested in opposing Assad and remain actively against any solution that allows him to restore his power over the country. With the Syrian regime in control of so little of the country's territories, there is a long and a bloody road before it can claim any kind of victory. As a result, the armed conflict will last for a long time, even if it takes different formats.

 Even if Assad is able to control Syria militarily, after a long struggle, the regime will still not be able to efficiently run the country. The Syrian regime has been depending for a long time on the manpower and support from its allies, namely Russia and Iran, in order not to collapse. Restoring and maintaining the rest of the country would also heavily depend on the support the regime receives from these allies. Keeping in check the local and foreign militias -- sponsored by Iran -- that helped in recapturing the country will be a security challenge and will likely create a weak government. The inability of the weak Iraqi and Lebanese governments to control the armed groups in their countries, the Popular Mobilization Units and Hezbollah armed wing, give a glimpse as to what could happen in Syria.

 The state institutions are weak and do not provide quality services for the majority of the country. There has been a catastrophic decline in the quantity and quality of services in the small percentage of regime-held areas due to a growing deterioration in the infrastructure and manpower resources on all services sectors such as health, education, industry.
Many regional and international countries will also oppose donating money to the Syrian regime to reconstruct the country and provide better services, which will lead to the marginalization of a big percentage of the country and negatively impact the regime's ability to rule them.

 The fragile security situation and lack of services and opportunities will likely discourage Syrian refugees from going back home. The fear of detention and pursuit by the security services and militias loyal to Assad for leaving the country or for opposing Assad, will continue to prevent many refugees from returning, which will not help in solving the Syrian refugee crisis. The Syrian regime, similar to what happened in the 1980s after the armed confrontation with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood party, will likely imprison or exploit thousands of those who actively opposed Assad and will continue to push more Syrians out of the country in search for protection and a better future.'


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  2. Thanks for the advice. I would then have to transfer all my old posts.