The opposition doesn’t have to win the current Battle of Damascus militarily.
Obviously one goal is to shake up the already eroding confidence of the regime and its supporters by showing the FSA can now strke anywhere. Hence, the growing impression that a tyranical regime (much like the IRI) is going down at an accelerating rate. Just as important: Having previous inflicted the “Death of a Thousand Knives” in so many places at once, a lightly armed militia has forced Assad to rely almost totally on what most Syrians see as despicable tactics. Assad has been maneuvered into playing villainous Goliath while the FSA gets the plum role: heroic David.
Regime strategy rarely varies these days: Stand back–safe and secure–keep a good eye on your restive troops and level the entire neighborhood, town or village with heavy weapons. Top it off by dispatching plainclothes thugs to slaughter anyone left alive.
All this because a supremely motivated FSA gave Assad a tactical lesson: he can’t send troops to do eliminate the enemy close up without facing heavy casualties and increased defections. That over 60 percent of the Syrian military is confined to barracks for “unreliability” doesn’t help military options and effectiveness. Meanwhile, their absence and FSA tactics wears down “trustworthy” troops who get little rest.
Assad’s “shell the whole neighborhood” strategy has its downsides. Look at what is happening in Damascus:
1. Who gets most of the blame when many civilians will be killed and their homes, stores and property destroyed? The common sense answer is “the side with the most destructive weapons and tactics.” Who is that in Syria today?
2. What happens when property owners demand compensation from the man responsible for the destruction? At best they’ll get worthless IOUs. The ruins will remain everywhere after the FSA retreats for Damascus to ponder. I’ll bet even a few privileged insiders will flinch with inconvenience at the sight of a favorite cafe in ruins.
3. Having finally enjoyed a front row seats as Assad’s thuggish miltias do their usual act, Damascus residents will have enjoyed a great lesson on “Who are the Bad Guys?”
4. The flight of CIVILIAN big shots will increase afterward from panic, revulsion or both.
5. The FSA can expect a ton of new officers and trained recruits from Syrian army ranks.
6. Many previouly neutral or inactive Damascus civilians will join the peaceful protests.
How discredited can a regime be? Ask Khamenei–Assad’s role model, tactical advisor and identical twin.
(This is a substantial rewrite of an earlier subpost. I also felt that–as analysis–it deserves a lead.