by FG

'An imminent fall of the Assad regime is not an inevitability, but it is a distinct possibility." --James Miller in a devastating analysis today at Enduring America. I agree.

ITEM: the regime hasn't won a single battle since September but the opposition ha won dozens.

ITEM: Rebel victories have been lopided wins with half the garrison defecting beforehand.

ITEM: Many other regime "strongholds" especialy in the north are either on the verge of fallling or of becoming surrounded.

ITEM: Assad is rapidly losing his only remaining offensive weapon--air power.

ITEM: Damascus airport may soon be closed or fall to the enemy.

ITEM: Assad has cut off the internet to deter growing demoralization and defections in Damascus & elsewhere.

Miller doubts the latter will work and so do I. Dictators like Assad and Khamenei cannot seem to grasp what should be obvious by now: In the modern world, one's lies, failiures and bad needs cannot be hidden from the people unless you want to live like North Korea will all the economic and military disadvantages that entails. Constant lying magnifies contempt and alienates the public to the point where nothing such regimes say has credibility, even when true, and the worst rumors become absolute fact.

Bad news will out. Assad's troops already know how things were going at the time the internet was shut off. As time passe, they can't help but notice the missing planes, copters and fellow troops or the rate at which they go missing.

For several nights now, rebels have attempted to take the airport. As Miller notes:

...should Damascus airport fall all sense of normality would be gone...Now it appears that the challenge may be serious enough to close the airport --- maybe for good. The news has already shaken the confidence of the international airlines, hesitant to send their people and planes into what looks like a warzone.



more from FG

Is this pessimistic report from a pro-Assad site correct?

by FG on

The site is not in English but Endurig America has translated part of it:

 "Dramatic" collapse in Syria army, units decimated, military hospitals unable to treat wounded. From a pro-regime


 And here's what EA has to say about the airport battle in Damascus today:

 However, there are many reports of fierce battles to the south, near the Damascus international airport. The FSA continues to try to take the road that leads to the airport, effectively shutting it off from the outside. It's unclear if they are militarily in a position to succeed, because the Assad regime is dedicating large amounts of firepower towards protecting the road. Still, videos showed FSA moving down parts of the road with little resistance, so it's clear that the regime is struggling.


According to EA, the internet closure may be stifling civilians but it has not handicapped the FSA which has prepared for this advance using American-supplied equipment to get around the shutdown.  EA reports it has received a flood of material today from Syria, both video and text.  Thus, it the regime shut down internet down to engage in mas slaughter, as Bashir's father did in Homs, it will find its crimes cannot be hidden.  Meanwhile the shutdown is hurting the Syrian economy and business.   So is the contining loss of oil fields.  EA writes:


 our own analysis suggested that the internet slowdown would not stop the opposition from communicating. To be clear, all sense of normalcy in Syria is now gone. All internet commerce will have stopped, and Damascus, the business hub of the country since the war reached Aleppo, is now completely cut off from the outside world. Also, the average citizen in Syria will have no internet connection. However, it is perfectly clear that the opposition is not the average citizen. Opposition groups, like the LCCs, have been working with the United States since the start (or before) to prepare for this contingency, and Syrian activists have learned methods to communicate despite government interference from Iran's Green Movement, Egypt's revolution, and other online activism.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. My email inbox is full of videos, eyewitness reports, and even streaming video from Syria. If the government thought they would stop the opposition from communicating, they were wrong. It will likely be tougher than normal to get information now, but it is clear that the mission to silence the opposition has failed.


It's another blow to the economy.  How long can the regime continue to pay his troops, though Iran, despite sanctions has been dumping in a ton of money in a vain effort to keep Assad afloat.

Al Jazeerah has a report on the latest rebel victories in the oil fields.


Scott Lucas as discusses three reasons why this is significant: 

First, the regime has now lost the majority of their oil fields, to say nothing of the trade routes they were using to smuggle the oil out. The financial implications are obvious, but if this conflict drags on the regime will also need the oil to power generators, power plants, tanks and other vehicles.

The second reason - the insurgents have already started to sell oil through Iraq and, by some accounts, Turkey. This influx of money will help fuel the revolution, as well as potentially provide revenue to buy more weapons. Speaking of weapons, many of the weapons in the east have already been purchased from Iraq, supplementing the weapons captured from the regime. This is not all about weapons, though. The insurgents, and the people under their care, need food, medicine, and other supplies - to say nothing of fuel for their own generators as winter threatens those affected by this crisis.

The last reason why this is important is that it is yet more confirmation of the regime's incredibly weak military standing in the east. The oil fields, and the Deir Ez Zor airport, are the remaining key locations in regime possession in this province, so if these oil fields have been abandoned it means that Assad's remaining forces know they are in a tactically unwinnable situation.

This was also one of the few locations south of Deir Ez Zor city that remained in regime hands. It seems the stage is now set for the insurgent forces to strike further north.

Once Deir Ez Zor falls, the insurgency will have uncontested access to hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of square kilometers of territory. With no significant threat to the east, the insurgents will be able to move to other locations. Their most likely path would bring them northwest, down the road that travels through Al Raqqag and on to Aleppo. If this road falls to insurgents, the Hassakaha governorate would be completely cut off from the rest of Syria, allowing the insurgents to quickly take that area as well.


An alternate explanation for internet shutdown

by FG on

The Guardian writes "he communications shutdown was seen as an attempt to stymie rebel moves as militias try to co-ordinate an assault on Damascus. It was also thought to be aimed at thwarting any plans for advances in other towns and cities."

That's certainly a possibility,  Nor are the two theories incompatible.  Thus the regime may also want to hide news of perpetual setbacks from its own troops.  

However the following paragraph from the Guardian shows why an unanticipated attack on the poorly defended coast might be the best procedure for now as I suggested in my last blog here:

 Damascus has remained a regime stronghold...Regime forces were also heavily deployed and appeared to be digging in for a fierce defence of the city.

Why do what he expects?  And why not draw out regime troops instead of fighting where they are dug in?   See my last blog for other reasons. 


Intenet is shut down. Assad

by firstdayofmylife on

Intenet is shut down. Assad pulled the plug.

The main airport is shut down.

That is scary because the Syrian gov't under cloak of darkness can do anything to the opposition as they wish including using chemical weapons. Frightening times for the Syrian people.


Is James Miller off track or is he another Marshall Goldman?

by FG on

Miller would argue that most media and think tanks put too much weight on Assad's "advantages" in manpower and equipment which may look impressive on paper.  However...

1. That ignores defection rates and growing morale problems contronting even Assad's best troops in contrast to high rebel morale.

2. All those tanks and artillery would be great if Assad had to fight World War II but how useful are they against an insurgency like this?  (Personally I think heavy tanks and traditioinal military aircraft are become an obsolere investment much like purchasing battleships after air power appeared)

3. Once Assad loses control of the air, defectors will start taking their tanks and artillery with them instead of leaving such things behind.

4. What remains of Assad's forces--being conventional in nature--becomes doubly vulnerable as that happens.   In addition to the insurgeants, they must face conventional forces manned by former comrades.

Marshall Goldman, an expert on the Soviet economy and society, earned the nickname "the bad boy of Soviet economics" when--in the early eighties--he offered a trenchant and multip-faceted argument pointing out why the Soviet Union could not survive much longer.   Instead of looking closely at each point he raised, the Sovietologists mocked Goldman with the usual "We've heard that so many times before" rebuttal.  

Maybe they did hear it before but Marshall was in a different class with earlier prognosticators who operated with far more information available.    When the eighties ended, Marshall would be flying high while his critics were minus a job.

I'd love to see Marshall write an analysis on Iran's predicament today.



Chemical weapons: Will Assad use them? Will jihadis seize them?

by FG on

Any use of chemical weapons can't save Assad now and would have several obvious drawbacks.  That does not mean he won't use them.  Assad's vindictive character recalls Hitler's remark in the great German film, "Downfall."  ("The German people failed me so they deserve what they get.")


1. Used in Damascus neighborhoods, the weapons would be inefficient and indiscriminate.

2. The use would trigger the red line for foreign intervention.

3. For political reasons only, Iran and Russia would have to back away from Assad instantly.

4. Assad's officers and troops might well turn on him.

5. Any chance of a safe refuge--however remote- would vanish. 


If jihadis have already succeeded in capturing the regime's anti-air manpads, why should they not succeed in capturing WMD's (weapons of mass destruction")  Why would they not use them afterward in Russia, Iraq, Iran, Lebaon (Hezbollah) or Israel given their demonstrated lack of scruples?  Note that there are many Chenchens amog the foreign jihadis now flowing into Syria.     

If the West intervenes to keep such weapon out of jihadi hands, what position should Russia and Iran take in their own best interests.


Russia and Iran kept Assad afloat long enough for these jihadis to do so well.  One reason was to prevent that from happening.  Without such support, Assad would have falle at least a year ago when there were few jihadis among the FSA.

The West refused to intervene militarily or provide anti-air weapons partly to keep such weapons out of the hands of radical Islamists.  By standing by, they made possible what they wanted to avoid.