Syria’s Assad thinks he is winning ! He could be wrong


assad syria
By Liz Sly
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power is looking less certain than his recent assertions of victory suggest, as America snubs his appeals for a partnership, Islamic State militants inflict defeats on his troops and his own Alawite constituency shows signs of growing discontent.

Far from looking invincible, the man who blamed terrorists for the rebellion against him instead is at risk of being cast as the leader under whose watch they flourished and now can’t do anything to check — much in the way Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was held to account for the fall of the Iraqi city of Mosul.

The shift does not appear to have registered with Assad, who remains confident, his supporters say, that the U.S. and its allies will soon be forced to seek his partnership in an international coalition against terrorism.

President Obama is expected to spell out his own strategy for confronting the Islamic State in a speech Wednesday that will prioritize Iraq, seemingly deferring yet again any effort to confront the mess that Syria’s war has become and leaving Assad in place for the foreseeable future.

Neither the Islamic State militants concentrated in the north and east of the country nor the more moderate, Western-backed rebels pose any immediate military threat to Assad’s grip on power. Iran and Russia show no signs of wavering in their support for his regime.

Yet there is also a growing recognition in Washington and allied capitals that the breathtaking militant gains require a broader approach to the underlying grievances that fueled their ascent, U.S. officials and diplomats say, refocusing attention on Assad’s role in the brutal suppression of the Sunni-dominated revolt against his rule.
In the weeks since Assad’s triumphant claim that he had prevailed over his foes after his victory in tightly controlled elections, his boasts seem more shaky and his approach may be about to backfire.

A string of humiliating defeats inflicted on the Syrian army in the northeastern province of Raqqa last month suggested that Assad, like many in the region and beyond, had underestimated the gathering strength of the former al-Qaeda affiliate. The Syrian government refrained from confronting the Islamic State throughout its year-long rise to power, which conveniently sustained the narrative that extremism was the only alternative, according to the Syrians who speak regularly to members of the regime.

The three bases lost in the fighting had little strategic value, but the manner of the defeat jolted Assad’s supporters. Scores of captured soldiers seized from one base were dragged through the desert in their underwear before being shot. Around 50 officers from another were beheaded, their severed heads spiked on poles and their decapitated bodies strewn around the streets of Raqqa for pedestrians to step over and film with their cellphones, according to videos posted on YouTube.

The images of the captured Syrian soldiers have triggered a rare eruption of outrage among Alawites, the minority sect to which Assad belongs — directed as much at Assad as at the perpetrators.

Several Facebook pages have sprung up expressing Alawite unhappiness with Assad, mostly for being too soft on his opponents. Five Alawites have been detained for their involvement in the dissent, but the pages have continued.

One, called Where Are They, focuses on Alawites who have gone missing during the fighting and whom the regime is accused of making scant effort to locate.

“We will no longer trade our blood in order for you to keep your rusting chair,” said one of the postings on the page, addressing Assad. “You cannot close our mouths. We have had enough.”

Alawites are not about to join the overwhelmingly Sunni opposition and see no obvious alternative to the current regime, said Joshua Landis, a professor of history at the University of Oklahoma.

“There is a lot of anger. The massacres in Raqqa were very humiliating and depressing,” he said.“This is not tantamount to the collapse of the regime. It is not an Alawite revolt.”

But the complaints speak to a growing awareness of the conundrum in which Alawites find themselves as the war drags on. Having backed Assad steadfastly throughout the rebellion, they have no choice now but to stand by him or risk annihilation at the hands of an ever more radicalized Sunni force that regards their faith as pagan. The fate of the Yazidis in Iraq resonates, Landis said.

However, Alawites have also paid a heavy price in blood for their loyalty and now see no end in sight to the war that Assad insisted he was winning. At least 110,000 members of the security forces and the local militias created to support them have been killed since the rebellion began, a disproportionate number of them Alawite, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The minority sect, loosely affiliated to the Shiite branch of Islam and concentrated in the mountains along Syria’s northwestern coast, comprise 10-12 percent of the country’s pre-war population of 24 million. If the casualty figures are true, it is the equivalent of America losing 9 million of its men.

There is no family that has not lost a son, and some have lost more. Towns and villages are strung with portraits of the dead. At funerals, which take place daily, tales of furious encounters between government officials and grieving relatives are commonplace, said Maher Esber, a Beirut-based activist with Syria’s minority Shiite community.

“There’s a sense of desperation. The regime tells them it is winning but on the contrary we are getting into a worse situation with no sign of light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

The concerns of the families illuminate another looming reality for the Assad regime, as the war, far from winding down, seems merely to be entering a new and potentially more dangerous phase.

After three years of fighting, the army is depleted and tired. Assad is indebted to local militias trained and funded by Iran, and to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, for his government’s most important victories. Many of the Iraqi Shiite militias who also helped have gone home to fight the Sunni extremists on their own turf.

The government sustains its efforts to repress the rebellion by bombing communities that oppose it from afar, further fueling the grievances that enabled extremism to thrive.

Even if the United States wanted to partner with Assad to defeat the extremists, “it’s not clear what he would bring to the table,” said Jeff White of the Washington Institute of Near East Affairs.

“What we’re seeing is the overall, uneven degradation of the regular military forces,” he said. “They’re becoming less and less capable over time.”

That is partly why Syria is so eager to join forces with America in theinternational coalition President Obama is seeking to build against the Islamic State

A new strategy has been adopted under which the government intends to focus its energies only on retaking areas it is capable of holding, according Salem Zahran, who runs a pro-government news organization and regularly meets with members of the regime. It is meanwhile counting on American support to eventually help it retake the parts of the country it can’t defend, he said.

“There will be a second phase of the strategy, in Raqqa, which will take place in cooperation with America,” he predicted.

Obama however has indicated that he has no intention of partnering with Assad, stressing instead the need for an increase in support for Syria’s moderate rebels. “I don’t see any scenario in which Assad somehow is able to bring peace and stability to a region that is majority Sunni and has not so far shown any willingness to share power with them,” he told reporters late last month.

Western diplomats say the bigger policy debate now is not over whether to cooperate with the Syrian president but how to increase pressure on him to compromise at a time when he believes he has become indispensable. A new U.N. envoy, Staffan de Mistura, is expected to visit Damascus this week in an attempt to revive the failed Geneva peace process, which is aimed at negotiating a transition away from Assad’s rule, U.S. officials say.

Assad, however, feels he is in a stronger position than ever, now that the Islamic State’s ascent has proved to the world that he was right about the threat posed by terrorists, according to Zahran.

“The regime believes what Obama is saying is just for media consumption,” he said. “After he called for the fall of the criminal regime he can’t turn round completely and cooperate with Assad. But in time he will. He will have no choice.”

Washington Post



44 responses to “Syria’s Assad thinks he is winning ! He could be wrong”

  1. little inside poll :
    up vote me if you believe Obama is clueless and lost when it comes to ME politics and power balance

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar

      Not so much Obama … maybe the American Congress. But that last line in the article ???
      “After he called for the fall of the criminal regime he can’t turn round completely and cooperate with Assad. But in time he will. He will have no choice.”

      Poppycock. People just won’t allow it. They won’t forget.
      If ‘Assad&Co.’ co-incidentally benefit somewhat from eliminating the ‘Ultimate Killers’ who ‘grew up’ in the little kingdom-world of desperate souls which 2 Assads CREATED, it does not mean ‘Obama is helping him’. Right now ALL the somewhat humanitarian world is going after these overly-radicalized brain-dead murderers, no matter what holes on the planet they have popped out of. It is not a ‘religion’ of anyone at work there – only a very pure despotism.
      And believing that only ‘Obama’ is running the show is as stupid as news-people can get.
      America is no different than ANY OTHER COUNTRY – in that it cannot make ‘thinking people’ do what they do not wish to do. Weapons never did. As Assad has found out.
      AND, as we can see now, the Alawite backers are beginning to think about events they should have opened their mouths on many years before – The mass subjugations and slaughters of humans simply because of some religious precepts. ISIS has highlighted THAT idiocy very well. ‘The Word’ about what Shabiha and various other sectarian ‘Hit-Men’ everywhere have done, has been widely disseminated and people with some brains are considering where they went wrong.
      They will be wrong again, if they think America helps Assad.
      It TOO has reconsidered the ‘Monster Of War’. Shouldn’t we all?

    2. MekensehParty Avatar

      If you’re looking for the votes of ISIS lovers you got them, after all they’re being slammed by Obama as much as Bibi and his own fans.
      When you look at the events today how can you still say that Obama lost or that he’s clueless?
      He beat Iran who was on its knees because of the sanctions before IS and now has opened its mouth ready to do what Farq loves doing most.
      He beat Iran’s influence in Iraq and erased in 3 months what the Iranians have been plotting for a decade.
      He put assad and Hezbollah in a slow cooker and every day their power is melting.
      He gathered all the Qaeda lovers, the US’s archenemies, in one stretch of territory and is making the people of the region going after them.
      He proved to Bibi that he can’t dictate events anymore but rather the contrary that events are going to be dictated on him from now on.
      Even Russia (the self-proclaimed challenger) is out of the ME for good after the Syrian debacle and its support for bashar against the will of the majority of Arabs.
      All of this again without losing the life of a single soldier.
      So tell me again, how did he lose?

      1. $89733098 Avatar

        ” Abadi is also Iran’s man, much more so than his predecessors Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nouri al-Maliki. His rise to power, together with the political arrangement reached by Washington and Tehran, gives Iran evermore control of its western neighbor. President Obama bizarrely claimed this as a success for his foreign policy.”

        Yeh sure the us curbed iran’s influence in Iraq…. That’s if one believes the propaganda of a old broom. Haha u and farqed up r EXACTLY the same. Both of u will swear black and blue that ur side doesn’t do anything

        1. Anti ISIS Avatar

          Love you to princess. Now, Have you done what I ask you do which is Takebeer, Takebeer

          1. $89733098 Avatar

            Trust me people have noticed how u run like a pig every time I expose u. U didn’t tell me, does Ali take beer

          2. 5thDrawer Avatar

            I didn’t see his ‘exposure’ … 8-(?) yummy
            Ali Baba would have taken dark beer, I’m sure….

          3. $89733098 Avatar

            I did say “people”!

          4. Anti ISIS Avatar

            Don’t forget the virgins 5th, or were they thief’s. Maybe Barabie can enlighten us.

          5. 5thDrawer Avatar

            Only 40 of those … couldn’t have been the virgins.

      2. Anti ISIS Avatar

        Your consistency in shit talking is imbecile.

        1. 5thDrawer Avatar

          About as good as anyone else’s these days. 😉

          1. Anti ISIS Avatar

            Not as good as our resident princess. :-)))

        2. $89733098 Avatar

          Then u should feel right at home my dear shite.

        3. MekensehParty Avatar

          It is my duty in life to erode the morale of people like you and those you follow.
          Since you love the word, I’m going to call it a DIVINE calling to take a shot at you and yours every opportunity I get as long as I live and breath.

      3. my opinion is that he lost cause even though we can view his actions as correct, his timing is shit, he blows up his opportunities one after the other.
        failing to intervine in Syria after the famous “red line” been crossed, signaled everyone they too, can test US’s will and strengh-this alone, decrease the chance of a diplo solution to any confrontation. it’s more lucrative to solve problems by force these days instead of democracy
        i do not see it that he beat Iran, on the contrary, iran was and still is on it’s knees but fighting IS will force US to cooperate with it. we already have reports of Irani soldiers fighting along side the kurds against IS,
        he didn’t putt Assad and HA on a slow cooker, more true to say is that he failed in fighting them and settles on status que. one of the reasons he failed is Russia which is very much alive and kicking in ME, don’t know how you can say Russia are out of ME when they daily block any UN resolution about the ME .
        the slow cooker that you refer to is IS which only days ago , the administration admitted , was underestimated. so forget about the slow cooker image- it’s more like a wild fire that gets it’s fuel through the Turkish borderline. Turkey is a Nato member yet Obama fails to stop the inflow of Jihadists into Iraq & Syria
        the “stretch of land” is the size of Great Britain…china is also confined to a stretch of land called china 😉
        he didn’t do anything about Israel (bibi), if anything happened is a proof to Obama (and everybody else, including Israel) that events control him and not the other way around:
        Obama pushed for a cease fire and was rejected by Hamas. he pushed for Turkey and Qatar as the brokers of a deal instead of Egypt and was rejected by Israel and Egypt.- he made a bet on the losing horse (again) and even lacked the commanding presence to enforce his choice.

        for these reasons i wrote the above post and for these reasons i believe Obama fails his foreign policy again and again (and that is before we even talked about the Ukraine and Baltic states)

        1. MekensehParty Avatar

          We discussed already why he didn’t bomb assad and settled with Russia on disarming assad from his chemical weapons. If he had bombed assad IS territory would be now stretching from the outskirts of Baghdad to the qalamoun mountain and probably beyond, all the way to Israel’s northern border.
          The war with Iran has been won 5 years ago, in 2009 when the people of Iran themselves went to the streets demanding their voice be heard. And while the regime replied with force and survived, Khamenei has been loosing more and more every day since then – if you want a good comparison think of the Midway battle of 1942. While Japan was able to last 3-4 more years it had lost the core of its fighting force. So the regime in Iran hasn’t crumbled yet, but it has been on the defense since then under the worse kind of threat, the internal one. Iraq, by all accounts has been lost with a strong return of the US and KSA in decision making. Syria is a heavily damaged ship with no port in sight that is trying with “all hands” to pump the water out only the holes are too big and there is no hope that the ship will be saved. Iran also lost Hamas as one can see from the last skirmish, Iran and Hezbollah stayed on the sideline and did nothing but talk. In Lebanon and the Arab world, Hezbollah is today the enemy #1 of the majority of non-shia populations. Even among the Shia its statue is diminishing every day.
          With Ben Laden killed (on Obama’s courageous order to send 2 helicopters filled with our elite troops INSIDE Pakistan) al Qaeda is a skeleton of what it used to be, and now the war has shifted to directly eliminate fanatic members around the world who gathered to form the last square between Mosul and Raqqa.
          As for petit bibi why don’t you tell us how the Israelis see this last debacle that achieved almost nothing. Please enlighten us how he was capable of stopping rocket fire, dismantle the tunnels and erase Hamas?
          Finally Russia, it is too early to say, let’s wait a year or two and see how their economy can handle sanctions while at the same time the army is in full readiness to… do what exactly? Attack Europe or the US in a suicide mission? Or steal some land here or there from poor Ukrainians, Byelorussians or Kazakhs? An army of petty thieves is what the great Russian army turned to.
          So please, look at the state of the enemies of the USA and tell me again, HOW DO YOU THINK OBAMA LOST?

          1. i still stand by what i said no need to shout
            if anything,the US forces will be used to fix a problem the arab countries can’t. when it’s done, you’d be an occupying force again for the population, withdraw to return and fight again against another enemy , worst one.should have hit Assad once, hard blow give the FSA the country before the jihadists came.but blew it now he will fight a tougher war
            “As for petit bibi why don’t you tell us how the Israelis see this last debacle that achieved almost nothing. Please enlighten us how he was capable of stopping rocket fire, dismantle the tunnels and erase Hamas?”

            i’m at minority perhaps but i believe Bibi performed great, and in contrast to what majority thinks, we’ve seen the last of Hamas for a really long time.
            you probably disagree but that remains to be seen

          2. $89733098 Avatar

            “we’ve seen the last of Hamas for a really long time.”

            Lol sorry to break the bad news to u but Hamas is even more stronger now than prior to the war. You should thank nuttyahoo for that.

          3. MaImequer0 Avatar

            Speaking of ‘long time no see’, where is the daft mare? Out recruiting I suppose.

          4. 5thDrawer Avatar

            Was that ‘post-op’?

          5. MaImequer0 Avatar

            lol.. no… post hormone therapy but pre-final chop. Oh an by ‘hormone’, I actually mean ‘whore moan’ as in hind’s preferred activity.

          6. $89733098 Avatar

            I love it. Xx

          7. $89733098 Avatar

            Lol so pretty. Careful farqed up might get all hot and bothered, then who knows what he/it might do to that mutah wife of his.
            But back to ur original point re daft mare, do u think it committed suicide? 🙂

          8. MaImequer0 Avatar

            LOL…I’m sure it’s cowering in a padded room somewhere.

          9. 5thDrawer Avatar

            Next to yours, perhaps. Your ‘fixation’ is getting old and tired. Screw off.

          10. $89733098 Avatar

            Not as old and tired as u r. “Screw off” yourself!

          11. $89733098 Avatar

            So it’s doing its usual while puffing on a cancer stick.

          12. 5thDrawer Avatar

            I did hear that they made some new shovels ….

          13. right..Hamas and HA as well…they all get stronger and attacking israel day and night

          14. MekensehParty Avatar

            I’m not shouting 🙂
            More like highlighting the question.
            The results, and not the actions or how they were perceived, are what matters most.
            The media can twist it the way it wants, politicians will try to gain by changing words… But the truth is for all to see: the US is making a grand entrance in the ME marking a blowing defeat to those who oppose such presence.
            As for bibi, he might have reduced Hamas’s might and arguably for a long time, but the result remains the same as before the war: Israelis are still and will remain under threat. Bibi’s government has yet to prove the contrary, which it can’t. And when this will become obvious bibi will call for elections and will loose.

          15. i really don’t care wether he loses or wins.i’m not a Bibi Voter.
            i only argue that A: the rocket threat system which was always the pride of Hamas proved it’s uselessness beyond any doubt. which is a HUGE stratigic defeat.
            B: in their eagerness to show they can still bite , Hamas blew his only tactical edge which was the assult tunnels.
            the time Hamas figures how it was beat that hard, how can it resupply and more importantly- How to gain another edge can be measured in years.
            as for the US grand entrance-i hope you are right but i’m really not optimistic about that. the arab nations see the US as a security subcontractor, not as someone they wish would impose it’s policy around

            hope i’m wrong

        2. MekensehParty Avatar

          Arab News titles today
          “USA is back: front door and red carpet”

    3. sweetvirgo Avatar

      You just want votes ;))) LOL

  2. nagy_michael2 Avatar

    Let’s see the supporters of M8 what they have to say about Alwaites who are protesting this monster being in power. yet hezbollah and others sacrificied their blood for what? this low life who butchered lebanon? if they have let the Syrian overrun their gov’t. I bet you the sunnis of Syria and the Shiites of Lebanon would have formed a very formidable alliance against Israel. But I know somehow Al Qaada have infiltrated Syria and no one can deny it. But that’s mostly because of the weakness of the entire arab and western hemisphere who ignored the original revolts against Assad and let them get butchered by Shabiha like sheep.. the only hope is to invite others to help them. But now who knows who you want to support anymore. its just a big f.. mess and we best keep out of it. Where is Nassrallah promise to keep lebanon protected from ISIS and al Nusra despite his constant interference in Arsal. all they did is create division instead of protecing lebanon like they protected Syria Assad. Its time to make a stand united all of Lebanon in order to save what we have left. but Iran, Assad and ISIS all love to see lebanon divided between Shiites and Sunnis since Christians are marginalized i hate to say then we don’t count as much anymore all due to our despicable leadership like Aoun and Geagea and Frenjieh.. Gosh going over these names making sick.. The Army need to be bi-partisian and totally supported by all lebanon no questions asked. Stop using the army against the Sunnis if you want the sunnis to support the army.

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar

      Nagy. Is that the good Sunnis, or the bad Sunnis?? ;-))

  3. It is obvious why ^they did not confront the Islamic State ^!

  4. $89733098 Avatar

    “Syria’s Assad thinks he is winning ! He could be wrong”

    No don’t tell farqed up that, he/it might kill him/itself…..on second thought, hey farq listen up, asshead is losing. Do u want me to post u a razor?

    1. Anti ISIS Avatar

      As long as it’s the razor you used to shave your private parts. I love the smell of prawns.

      1. $89733098 Avatar

        Of course. Anything to help u end ur miserable existence.

        1. Anti ISIS Avatar

          Thank you Barabie, you are such a sweet heart.

          1. 5thDrawer Avatar

            (Brazilian music plays in the background ….)

  5. $89733098 Avatar

    daft mare and farqed up can u see yourself in this article?

    “For ‘pro-Palestine’ activists that have abandoned Palestinians to their fate at the hands of the Syrian regime or betrayed them by siding with the regime, the ironies abound. Out of one side of their mouths, they attack liberals and soft Zionists for blaming ‘both sides’ for the Gaza crisis; out of the other side of their mouths, they blame ‘both sides’ in Syria for the regime’s starvation of Yarmouk refugee camp located near Damascus. Out of one side of their mouths, they reject Israel’s claim that Hamas has left them ‘no choice’ but to take military action against the most destitute and oppressed people in the region; out of the other side of their mouths, they repeat the Syrian regime’s claim it has ‘no choice’ but to act in ‘self-defense’ against armed militants espousing Islamist ideology. The sacred right of Palestinians displaced in 1948 to return home is useless to the dead and at least 2,000 of them will never be able to exercise that right thanks to the regime.
    What about their right to live? What about their right to food, clothes, and shelter, a right that trumps what any armed group decides to do?”

    You are welcome. 🙂

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