Syria In Flames – OpEd


By Ilya Kharlamov

This week, the international attention has been focused on the “hot” phase of the conflict in Syria. Government forces dislodged rebels from Syria’s second largest city Aleppo where opposition forces had planned to organize a base for foreign assistance and a springboard for launching further attacks.

Syrian and Jordanian servicemen clashed on the border between the two countries. The US slapped new sanctions on Damascus, while the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the importance of maintaining the presence of international observers in Syria whose mandate expires in August. Mr.Ban holds rebel forces responsible for the escalation of military operations in Aleppo.


Hopes voiced by Pentagon chief Leon Panetta to the effect that seizure of Aleppo by rebel forces would “drive the last nail into Assad’s coffin” fell through. The battle for Aleppo was deemed decisive by all parties involved, including the Assad regime, the rebel forces, and experts in the West. In case of success, the opposition was prepared to seize neighboring Idlib and turn it into a powerful base for launching new attacks. Western media kept repeating that seizure of Aleppo would provide the ‘Syrian uprising’ with a new vigor and would force the president to quit.

Judging by the recent developments, the situation is changing in favor of the authorities. Andrey Volodin of the Oriental Research Center met with a Voice of Russia correspondent.

“Evidently, rebel forces which consist of defectors, mercenaries and members of al-Qaeda, are powerless against a regular army. The West is thus faced with a dilemma: to leave everything as it is, or resort to a military intervention. Syria, Iran, Iraq, and probably, Lebanon, are planning to form an economic alliance. Opposition forces have become active in Turkey driven by a belief that President Erdogan’s policies are too premature and detrimental to the country’s interests. Erdogan is beginning to cross the Red Line drawn by Kemal Ataturk which precludes going beyond the borders of Turkey.”

However, Ankara is doggedly pursuing this track. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has arrived in Turkey, reportedly to discuss support for Syria’s split opposition and Syria’s development after Bashar Assad’s departure with the Turkish leadership.

The Syrian people and authorities have a clear plan of action, says Oleg Fomin, co-chairman of the Russian Committee for Solidarity with Syria.

“The Syrian people should continue to defend their cities and villages against invaders and see to it that all sober-minded groups within the Syrian society agreed to sit down at the negotiating table. They should also foster relations with Russia, China, Venezuela, and Cuba – countries that support Syria. Hopefully, the circle of the so-called “Friends of Syria” will expand as more countries favor Damascus’ position over that of neo-globalists, who are trying to subdue Syria and restore chaos in the Middle East.”

As it became clear in the wake of the Aleppo battle, rebel forces include a large number of foreign mercenaries from Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Contacted by a Voice of Russia correspondent, the commander of the Free Syrian Army Riad al-Asaad denied the presence of al-Qaeda linked terrorists among rebel forces. According to Riad al-Asaad, the Syrian opposition is against all forms of extremism. Strange as it might seem, extremism seems to be the mildest word to describe the methods opposition forces are using against the country’s legitimate authorities.

Rebels and their western patrons are waging an info war. This week, they posted a report saying that a Russian general who coordinated the government’s military operations against the rebels was killed in Syria. Later in the week, the general met in person with journalists in Moscow.

As the armed conflict in Syria rages on, a number of countries have been making attempts to stop the bloodshed. Ministers from more than twenty countries and a UN representative gathered in Tehran on August 9th to discuss Syria. Nevertheless, the situation is following the worst scenario, Irina Zvyagelskaya of the Oriental Studies Institute, says.

“The purpose of the current scenario is to force the regime to disintegrate and President Assad to resign. The opposition is set on pressing on with their demands. Once they achieve their goal, they will start to build a regime of their own, but their regime is unlikely to be better than the current one.”

Washington and Brussels have been adding fuel to the fire by threatening to use force. The US has slapped new sanctions on Assad’s government and organizations that help Syria’s leadership. The US Treasury Department has included Hezbollah in the list of organizations that support the Syrian president. Earlier sanctions which were imposed on Syria by the US and the EU have brought no results.


VOR, or the Voice of Russia, was the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service from 1993 until 2014, when it was reorganised as Radio Sputnik.

4 thoughts on “Syria In Flames – OpEd

  • August 12, 2012 at 12:39 am

    The problem they face and the outcome they seek are far apart. It does not make it impossible but it is very difficult. For example a decisive military campaign of a short period by a conventional modern military can defeat the opposing force on the battlefield and leave the military structure intact. Like the initial phase of Iraq.

    The strategy being used in Syria by the FSA as they cannot defeat the opposing forces decisively in a short period of time, via battlefield superiority. Is to via attrition deconstruct of the over all structure of the military, this is what insurgency, guerrilla warfare aims to achieve, against a superior fighting force both technically an numerically.

    So it is very hard to stop just short of deconstructing the force structure and the military as a whole and achieve battlefield superiority over the enemy.

    Halt the offensives too early and the enemy will regroup, too late and the military will fall apart. Due to the compartmentalized nature of the command structure and units of the FSA you will find it hard to get accurate situational reports, and they will be conflicting in assessment. Then there is the issue of command and control to issue such orders due to the decentralized nature of the command structure.

    So if it was me I would be recruiting men from the refugee camps and FSA members for a trained and post Assad security force to provide demilitarized security of around 250,000 in their host countries.

    So if you get it wrong you have a back up and I question the ability to keep the Assad forces structure in place due reasons mentioned and whether that should guide overall battlefield strategy. The overall guide of the current strategy is post Assad, when the only objective should be defeating the regime.

  • August 12, 2012 at 12:47 am

    Otherwise by late 2013 military operations will have to cease, run the risk that Assad can regroup and economic warfare will have to be used until the regime collapses but the security forces stay intact. You have to adopt a strategic holding pattern, I could not say how long that would take, but the refugees are billeted until 2015/16. It could take that long.

  • August 12, 2012 at 12:53 am

    Too put it in simple terms the FSA cannot fight on the front lines and conduct 3 month military training on foreign soil at the same time. So the 250,000 FSA trained are reserve units and can be used to bolster front line units and provide security for the day after. It is the Bay of Pigs training up the Cuban’s in the US was a good idea, it was just the operation that failed.

  • August 12, 2012 at 1:38 am

    Why the FSA make ground on the regime, is because while the majority many not be well trained, the FSA is outgunned and out numbered, by a superior force structure.

    But it is the tempo of the FSA operations, that is their advantage. If the regime pulled back to regroup the FSA will push forward the tempo, strategic depth, regardless of the new FSA security bubbles. No rest for the regimes forces, no respite from the battle.

    That is why a strategic holding pattern could be a major mistake and allow Assad to regroup, even while economic warfare is used. A strategic holding pattern would go from security bubbles being held, to the ROE forced on the FSA by the SNC before it was junked an the war could go on for many more years, at least another three. Including the beginning in 2011 to 2013, then two years of economic warfare till 2016, that is 7 years. And could end in a stalemate or defeat. It is more likely the war would be started all over again and the FSA would have to fight to get to the same point of the regime on the brink of collapse in 2013. Then either push on and the security forces will collapse anyway or another go at economic warfare which may allow Assad to regroup again.

    The FSA are tenacious and that is why the tactical retreats work for the FSA due to the higher tempo and which creates overall momentum, even when launching a tactical retreat, the FSA still have overall momentum, when looking at the overall big picture of the war.

    If people really wanted to swing the battle the FSA’s way night vision goggles would be supplied to the FSA. No point asking as it could not be obtained in the required numbers for the ANA.


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