NIGHTWATCH: Syria Rebounding, Rebels Fragmenting

Peace Intelligence
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Syria: Comment: Israeli and Western news outlets report the Syrian government is rebounding and the army is on the offensive. The clearest sign of greater vigor is President Asad’s public appearance at a power station in Damascus. This is his first public appearance since January, but he gave two televised interviews in April.

While Asad activities are confidence builders, the army’s continuing offensive against rebel-held sections of the city of Homs is a more tangible manifestation of resurgence. The operation, thus far, has succeeded in taking back parts of Homs that had been held by rebels for a year.

Hezbollah is providing flank support by attacking opposition fighters on the border town of Qusayr, which is located along the route between Damascus and the Alawite core region to the north. Syria forces also are fighting in the port town of Baniyas.

A reasonably successful offensive in this region would secure the western and most productive parts of Syria for the regime and essentially fragment the country. It also would ensure that attempts to provide western arms to the rebels via the Mediterranean ports would be subject to capture by Syrian and Hezbollah forces.

Syrian leaders appear to be trying to improve their political and military positions before the US leadership makes up its mind about increased intervention.  They are also taking advantage of continuing disunity and fractiousness among the rebel groups. The Times of Israel  judged that the decline in opposition fortunes began when the rebel al Nusrah Front announced its allegiance to al Qaida.

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