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Note: Even though the western media tend to refer only to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) when reporting on Syrian rebel forces, the Syrian rebels are not a unified force.

There are many different groups. Some are part of the FSA, some are part of the FSA in name only, and some are not part of the FSA.

Some of the rebel groups cooperate occasionally, but there is a great deal of discord and rivalry between the various groups and groups which cooperate one day can fight each other the next.

- * - * - * - * - * - * - * - * - * -

The basic tactics and assumptions which Syrian rebel forces initially used and counted on were quite simple:

- Constantly pop-up in multiple locations and attack government forces and whenever possible establish control over an area and when not quickly retreat. The objective being to weaken government forces by forcing them to have to spread themselves thinly around the country.

- Cut government forces' supply lines or, if this was not possible, disrupt them as much as possible, forcing government forces to have to spend a significant amount of resources on supply efforts.

- Establish supply lines for rebel forces and, most importantly, take control of areas along the Turkish, Lebanese and Jordanian borders where supplies could be sent in.

- Count on casualties and defections to weaken government forces while also counting on an assumed pool of 10 to 15 million Syrians to replenish and increase rebel forces numbers.

- Count on the Syrian governments' having to devote a great deal of its resources to keeping the country running while being able to devote all of their resources to attacking government forces.

For quite a while rebel forces enjoyed a degree of military success, but it seems that shifts in tactics and conditions are in progress now.

It has turned out that the pool of 10 to 15 million Syrians which rebel forces counted on to replenish and increase their numbers didn't materialize, and it is now rebel forces who are suffering from attrition - high casualties, defections, and few willing to join - while government forces numbers have remained relatively stable.

It has also turned out that rebel forces now have to devote a great deal of their resources to maintaining their positions in the areas under their control, both to administer and keep under control the populations in these areas and to keep rival rebel groups from trying to take control of them.

Signs have begun to appear that it is now government forces who are forcing rebel forces to be thinly spread by launching multiple attacks on multiple rebel positions. Rebel forces don't seem to have sufficient numbers to hold the areas which they control and to defend against multiple attacks by government forces.

Government forces have been attacking rebel positions and have begun to take back control of and reestablish the supply lines which rebel forces had cut last year. This will allow government resources which were being used for difficult supply efforts to be used for combat.

Government forces have been able to cut or severely disrupt some of the rebels supply lines from Lebanon and Jordan, and inside Syria.

Most of the rebel supply lines from Turkey are now overloaded with humanitarian aid which is keeping the people in rebel controlled areas in northwestern and north central Syria alive, but government forces have also begun to disrupt the rebels' weapons supply lines in northwestern Syria.

In addition to these shifts in tactics and conditions, a few months ago I began noticing that some rebel groups (especially the radical Islamic and Arab tribes rebel groups) were moving much of their operations to the east of the Euphrates and that this was causing increasing tension between the various rebel groups, between rebel groups and Kurdish groups, and between rebel groups and local residents in these areas east of the Euphrates.

It is very possible that in the next few months government forces will consolidate their control over most of western Syria, and that rebel forces will concentrate their forces to the east of the Euphrates, and that rebel forces will maintain their control over the very troubled areas west, north, and northeast of Aleppo.

Originally posted to InAntalya on Fri May 03, 2013 at 08:19 AM PDT.

Also republished by Adalah — A Just Middle East.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (18+ / 0-)

    Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

    by InAntalya on Fri May 03, 2013 at 08:19:05 AM PDT

  •  The Second Phase of Guerrilla War (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    InAntalya, mookins

    If the Syrian insurgents are making the geographical moves mentioned here, it sounds like nothing so much as the the second phase of the Viet Minh insurgency against the French in Indo-China during the late 1940s.  The Viet Minh seemed to be on the way to victory in 1945-46, until the French military returned in force.  The Viet Minh withdrew to the lightly populated and rugged terrain of the region bordering China, while the insurgents went deep underground in the Red River delta.  The Viet Minh didn't make a return to the delta region until after China entered the Korean War and began to make available substantial weapons to the Viet Minh.  Of course, if the Sunni insurgents move over across the Euphrates to border the Kurds and Iraqis, it will be interesting to see what sort of assistance they can secure from that land-locked region.   This is particularly so since the Turks are going to be restricting weapons shipments into the Kurdish areas and the Iraqi central government will be big footing any reemergence of a Sunni insurgency in Iraq.  This foreshadows a really messy development in the region, putting everyone in the area on edge.

    "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

    by PrahaPartizan on Fri May 03, 2013 at 09:20:00 AM PDT

  •  Robert Fisk is in Syria (6+ / 0-)

    and has been reporting details of what is happening on the ground for The Independent. He agrees with what you have written.

        The army believe they are at last winning back ground from the Free Syrian Army and the al-Nusra Islamist fighters and the various al-Qa’ida satellites that now rule much of the Syrian countryside. From Point 45 they are scarcely a mile and a half from the Turkish frontier and intend to take the ground in between. Outside Damascus they have battled their way bloodily into two rebel-held suburbs. While I was prowling through the mountaintop positions, the rebels were in danger of losing the town of Qusayr outside Homs amid opposition accusations of the widespread killing of civilians. The main road from Damascus to Latakia on the Mediterranean coast has been reopened by the army.  

        Bashar’s Special Forces now appear confident, ruthless, politically motivated, a danger to their enemies, their uniforms smart, their weapons clean. Syrians have long grown used to the claims by Israel – inevitably followed by the Washington echo machine – that chemical weapons have been used by Bashar’s forces; as an intelligence officer remarked caustically in Damascus: “Why should we use chemical weapons when our Mig aircraft and their bombs cause infinitely more destruction?”

     h/t Land Destroyer

    The various groups opposing the Syrian Government lack unity of command. I think, barring further intervention from the West, (how likely is that) that the tide is definitely turning in favor of Assad and, considering the make-up of the opposition, for the people of Syria.

    Orwell - "Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable"

    by truong son traveler on Fri May 03, 2013 at 10:28:38 AM PDT

  •  Here is Col. Pat Lang (8+ / 0-)

    at Sic Semper Tryrannis in response to an Ackerman piece. Scroll down to see Col. Lang's comments at the link.

    ... The Syrian rebels are not going to be able to overthrow the Syrian government no matter what we give them.


    They are a rabble of bits and pieces of various movements, many of them Sunni Islamic jihadist catspaws for Saudi Arabia who are interested in nothing but creating an Islamic emirate in the territory that is now the Syrian Arab Republic.

    The government's supporters are Alawi, Shia, Sunni and Christian.  This is a majority coalition.

    Orwell - "Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable"

    by truong son traveler on Fri May 03, 2013 at 10:56:38 AM PDT

  •  Superbly informative diary (5+ / 0-)

    Once again you've distilled a great deal of information and insight into a tight and readable essay.

  •  Will the outcome be endless war? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Daniel Pipes reveals what American policy is in Syria. I've posted on this very same apparent US policy many months ago:

    Sept 24, 2012.

    Syria has tuned into a "honeypot" and is attracting hundreds of militant Islamists from Algeria, Libya, Yemen, Af/Pak and other hotspots. Maybe it is in the US's best interests to have these militants come and be killed by Assad's forces? At the same time, Assad's Syria has been completely destabilized and is no longer the threat it once was in relation to Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. For some in the Pentagon this would be the best possible outcome. The longer it goes on, the more attrition from both sides.

    Here's a very imformative report by the RealNews Network:
    US Syria Policy Promotes Endless Civil War

    Omar Dahi: Daniel Pipes, neo-con and ultra Zionist, spells out US policy towards Syria - let both sides destroy each other -   May 3, 13

    More at The Real News
  •  Syria from a different perspective (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Anastasia Popova spent several months in Syria and gives a video report on conditions that the western mainstream media do not cover - especially of the crimes committed by the NATO & GCC backed jihadists against the Syrian people.

    Anastasia Popova at the Conference on Syria in Geneva March 1, 2013 - organized by the International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights

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