Saturday, November 19, 2011

Prolonging the Inevitable?

Almost everybody who I have spoken with, and who has been to Syria recently, tells me that the general mood in Damascus is overwhelmingly against Assad. This is at odds with the state media that shows crowds of thousands of pro-regime demonstrators gathering in the central squares of the city. The regime is still very shocked by its suspension from the Arab League, and my guess is because it recognises this as a very serious prelude to something more serious and far reaching. Let's say the Turks do decide to enforce a buffer zone in northern Syria, and that the Free Syrian Army begins mounting serious attacks against regime strong points and loyalist forces, will they be able to take and hold ground?

The arrival of a high level military delegation from Iran might be for just such a possibility. If the country sinks into all out civil war, the Syrian army command will have to factor in things like low morale, high levels of desertions, and the ability to fight an insurgency. The Iranians can help with the latter, firstly because they've been doing the same for Shia groups fighting the Americans in Iraq, and secondly because they have had their run-ins with their own insurgencies from the Kurds or Iraqi sponsored-guerilla movements. Still, if the Syrians need an Iranian delegation to tell them how to protect their own territory, then at this stage that's hardly going to do them much good.

At the moment there is a sense of hope that, when push comes to shove, the regime will buckle. If it doesn't, well, then it doesn't.

No comments: