SYRIA/ Ammar Waqqaf: The downfall of Assad is far from being certain
The deaths caused by the two-year long civil war in Syria are estimated to be more than 90,000, and still the war does not seem to be drawing to a close. The downfall of the regime of Bashar Al-Assad was declared to be certain by many commentators, but the Syrian army has substantially remained faithful to Assad, who is supported not only by his Alawite and other Shiite communities, but sustained or at least not opposed by other minorities present in the country. Moreover the rebels, who are mainly Sunnites, are very fractured, with some division between the political and military wings, and with a concerning presence of groups connected with Al Qaeda and other extremist organisations. In recent days, the government has taken the initiative and won some ground battles. This success by the regime and the threatened delivery of lethal weapons to the rebels by President Obama calls the planned peace conference in Geneva into question.
Ilsussidiario.net has asked Ammar Waqqaf, an independent Syrian political analyst based in the UK and one of the most informed on the tragedy that is upending his country, to describe the present situation and its predictable developments.
What is the strategic meaning of the battle of Aleppo, and what will be the consequences of a victory of the government or of the rebels?
I think what is really strategic is that after more than two years of the conflict, the government has taken the initiative. This started a couple of months ago with the battle around Damascus, and the rebels have been on the back foot ever since. This battle is specifically important because, due to its position near the border with Turkey, and the relative sympathy towards the rebels in the rural areas around it, Aleppo was heavily nominated to be the Benghazi of Syria. The Aleppo area in general was nominated to become a no-fly zone, or a safe haven for the rebels that would be protected by international forces, and the rebels activities on the ground were in preparation for such a move, as many people believe. Nonetheless, the people of the city of Aleppo, themselves, are by far anti-rebellion, and this has prevented the rebels from taking full control of the area.
After two years of civil war the Syrian Army is still loyal to Bashar Assad. Why is the Assad control on the Army still so strong?
The key to understanding why the army, and indeed all other institutions of the state are still intact and loyal to the government is to realise why many Syrians refused to join with the uprising. This is largely due to real reasons behind the uprising, like sectarian division and class/economic struggle, and these threaten the very fabric of the state. Many Syrians decided very long ago that the state provides them with a much better option for them and for their children. The simple motto was, from the beginning: The regimes in Qatar and Saudi Arabia cannot be really supporting a progressive revolution in Syria. In a nutshell, Syrians still go to their work in every institution in Syria, and not just the army, and, by doing this, they kept the state on its feet for all this time.
How important has the Hezbollah intervention been in the military recovery of the Assad army?