NIGHTWATCH: Syria Update

08 Wild Cards

Syria: The Syrian army seized Idlib and rebels, activist Noureddin al-Abdo said on 14 March. Al-Abdo said fighting stopped on the night of 13 March, the Free Syrian Army has withdrawn and regime forces are performing house-to-house searches. News reports also reported the start of another army sweep operation in Dara’a, at the opposite end of Syria from Idlib.

Comment: Once again the location of this action provides insight into the threat to the al Asad regime. Idlib is near the border with Turkey. As long as army units are operating on the borders, the government is not threatened.

In this instance, the quick sweeps in Idlib after the success in Homs reinforce the judgment that the army remains effective and responsive to the government.

The opposition rout from Idlib was accompanied by two more senior defections from the opposition’s leadership council because of its disorganization and authoritarian management practices. Several news accounts described the opposition as now in disarray.

For the opposition, possibly the only positive lesson from the recent operations is that the Syrian army’s logistics system looks limited. It appears unable to support more than one major push at a time. The army seems to have no shortage of effective leaders and combat forces, but the logistics system appears one dimensional. Nevertheless, the opposition demonstrates no capability to take advantage of this army vulnerability.

Syria-Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia closed its Damascus embassy and withdrew its diplomats on 14 March due to the current events in Syria, a Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said, the Saudi press agency reported.

Comment: This action is further evidence that the fighting in Syria is primarily a proxy fight between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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