20/07/2012

Has the battle of Damascus begun?

Is the regime of Bashar al-Assad losing ground against these opponents? Is the situation in Syria going to switch? These questions can be raised  in the view of  the events of this week. If the regular Syrian army until recently seemed much more powerful than the Syrian Free Army, the latest events seem indeed demonstrate a change in this balance of power. Will this rebalancing precipitate the end of the regime of Bashar or conversely, a repetition of violence? Although, at present, the answer to this question remains unknown, it is clear that the future of Bashar Al-Assad at the head of Syria seems increasingly unlikely.

Yesterday’s attack that killed four senior security officials in the heart of Damascus has completely shaken the regime. Indeed, it proves that the opposition is now able to hit the regime in his heart. Nobody is now safe. The regime will not of course leave the crime unpunished and will most certainly hit more and harder, which will isolate it further internationally. We can expect also that Gulf and Western interests to be targeted, even in Lebanon which could destabilize the Cedar country once again .

The regime is facing increasing defections and yesterday’s attack is also likely to cause even more. The first was that of General Manaf Tlass and the regime can now fear the defection of big part of the Sunni nomenklatura. Sunnis who are defecting for fear of being killed  or by discontent of their marginalization. Indeed, many Sunni officers saw Alawites pass before them in terms of promotions, and are frustrated. With fewer officers, the regime’s ability to regain lost ground will be more difficult.

The Syrian Free Army also controls, according to various sources, numerous border check points at Iraqi and Turkish borders. Control of these positions will promote their supply, particularly in weapons. The Lebanese border, through which many arms to the regime are flown , however, is still controlled by the regular army. This new situation now will prevent the systemto work in isolation by controlling all borders and to try to regain ground. Moreover, although the regular army is much better equipped than the Syrian Army Free, this power struggle could slowly change in a not so distant future.

Damascus may, for the time being, have the support of Russian and Chinese, who still have vetoed a resolution condemning the regime in Damascus. But these allies, if they realize that the situation is blocked, that the Syrian regime will not regain lost ground, might be tempted to drop the regime. In addition, the U.S. and countries of the Arab League, noting the inability of the Security Council, could decide to arm more powerfully and rebellion through Turkey and Iraq.

The latest rumors said that Bashar Assad fled to Latakia, the Alawite stronghold, and its intention is to accept an honorable transition for him. One can only hope that these rumors are well-founded, because the second possibility is that the regime increases fierce repression that is not even the assurance of his hold on power. The coming weeks will therefore be crucial for the future of Syria.

 

GEOFFROY D’ASPREMONT