By Adam Michalski
The rebels have managed to seize control over border checkpoints with Turkey and Iraq. This marks another day of rebel opposition. The captured border crossing between Iraq and Syria at Abu Kamal is perhaps the most important one. This major trade route is part of the old Silk Road which connects Syria with the East. Capturing this strategic position certainly puts the Assad regime under stress, as each border post captured toward the east will in the end decrease Syria’s economic and military connections or trade with Iran and East Asia. Alongside that, the rebels claimed control of two border checkpoints on the Turkish border in Bab al-Hawa and Jarablus. It seems as if the latest attacks are signs of coordinated campaigns aiming to capture Syria’s borders in order to exert greater pressure on the regime.
With this, early in the morning rebels also managed to mark their presence in the capital of Damascus by torching the main police headquarters. Reports have said that there were signs of black smoke from the Damascus Province police building.
It has been suggested that the next few days will be critical in determining if Assad’s regime can recover from the bombings on last Wednesday that wiped out three senior defense officials. We will certainly see increased activity from the side of the rebels as now is the time to tackle the disorientated regime. It is not hard to predict this scenario.
On the other hand, during last Thursday’s U.N. Security Council meeting, Russia and China for the third time have vetoed a resolution (Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter is the main reason) which would call for tougher sanctions. According to Vitaly Churkin, Russian Ambassador to the U.N., this development would have also paved the way for “external military involvement in Syrian domestic affairs.” The veto was strongly criticized by the U.S., UK and France as “inexcusable and indefensible,” pointing out that the U.N. has once more failed the people of Syria.
Given this setting, the U.N. is now planning to extend its mandate in Syria by another thirty days in order to maintain its presence in the conflict. There are still 300 U.N. observers in Syria (although their mission was suspended due to increased violence from the side of Assad back in June).
Given that the rebels are starting to pose more organized opposition to the regime, the U.N. finds it crucial to monitor the vital developments in the upcoming month. Can the U.N. accomplish anything more in that extra month is a different question. Most likely the answer is “No.” For now the Free Syrian Army and other anti-Assad groups will have to continue exerting pressure on their own. Outside intervention is certainly not an option at the moment.
As for now, if the rebels manage to control the borders and hold on to them, we are certain that the regime will be in greater trouble as days go by. The more isolated Assad is the more likely we are to see problems and disputes emerge in the Ba’ath Party itself. Hence the next month will be crucial in determining the future of Damascus and Syria.