Small Wars Journal

Assad's Victory in Syria Has Cost Him Control of the Country

Assad's Victory in Syria Has Cost Him Control of the Country by Daniel R. DePetris - The National Interest

Four years ago, with Syrian government forces stretched increasingly thin and rebel fighters assaulting some of the regime’s most precious and strategic areas, it seemed as if it was only a matter of time before Bashar al-Assad and his extended family were driven into exile. As the violence began creeping closer and closer to Damascus, and as rebel units started launching mortars into the heart of the capital city, rumors abounded about Assad’s fate. A Saudi daily at the time reported that Assad was getting so concerned about the safety of himself and his family that he decided that being surrounded by Russian military personnel on a Russian warship off the coast of Latakia province was a better place to live than in the presidential palace. For many in Washington who were opining for a more aggressive U.S. policy in Syria, it looked like there was finally a bright light at the end of the tunnel—give the opposition a few more months, and the Syrian dictator would be coerced into leaving.

Of course, none of that happened. Assad’s army, while weak and suffering from extensive attrition, casualties and desertion, was resilient enough at its core (fellow Alawite officers remained loyal to the regime throughout) to defend Damascus and provincial capitals across the country. Raqqa, Idlib and Deir ez-Zor would fall out of government control, but those cities were not particularly important for the Assad regime’s survival; they were far enough away from the territory Assad needed to struggle along, so each could be contained and sporadically bombed by Syrian aircraft. Today, Damascus is on the cusp of retaking Deir ez-Zor as pro-government forces tighten a siege on Islamic State militants who have held most of the city for years. Raqqa, in the meantime, is literally being blown to bits as U.S. coalition aircraft and the Syrian Democratic Forces clear out the remaining ISIS presence in that city…

Read on.