Reports indicate that Bashar al-Assad's forces are preparing for a ground offensive against rebel-held areas of Aleppo. That will most certainly increase the casualties significantly over the already high tallies seen across the country in recent weeks.
Syria on Friday amassed troops in the northern city of Aleppo in preparation for an onslaught on rebel-held areas and the opposition reported a massacre in the central city of Hama.The UN is hobbled by a split Security Council - the Russians and Chinese are blocking everything related to Syria, up to and including even weak-worded condemnation of the violence. Kofi Annan admitted as much when he declared his mission to implement a peace deal was a failure and that he was stepping down as envoy to Syria effective at the end of the month.
Opposition activists said more than 62 people, including women and children, were killed in a massacre committed by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad in Hama. The claim by the Local Coordination Committees could not be independently verified.
In Aleppo, Syria's main commercial center, the Syrian army sent more troops and tanks to break a stalemate in fighting with rebels holding out for six days in opposition areas mainly in the east and southwest of the city near the border with Turkey.
"Dozens of trucks loaded with troops and backed by more than 100 tanks are being positioned around Aleppo," Abu Omar al-Halabi, a commander in the rebel Free Syrian Army, told dpa by phone.
Assad's looking out for one thing - to remain in power at all costs. That means paying lip service to the diplomats all while crushing those opposed to him. The burden falls on Syrians who can't get out of the way of the violence, or who have declared allegiance to one side or the other.
Meanwhile, the NY Times reports Assad's forces are bedeviled by the fact that they're not prepared to deal with an insurrection where rebel forces (the Free Syrian Army and other unaffiliated groups) are able to mount coordinated attacks and capture some of the same weapons for use against the Syrian army. It's a situation that the Libyan military faced when Mumar Khadafi sought to crush the rebellion-turned-civil war and that the Egyptian military faced when Hosni Mubarak sought to stop the protests against his regime.
However, one shouldn't feel sorry for Assad because his military is having a tough time dealing with the rebel forces. It appears that even with a tactical advantage in the air (from helicopters and jets), it's just enough for Assad's forces to maintain the status quo. The Syrian military wasn't known for having a high state of preparedness to begin with, so equipment that was unreliable to start has only become more so. That's one of the reasons those helicopters that the Russians were refurbishing was so valued by the regime. They needed them to fill in for those that were already flying missions to support Assad's loyalists on the ground.
If he can't resupply and rearm, then the rebels will gain the upper hand and leave Assad with fewer and fewer options for how to retain power. It potentially opens the door for Assad to use chemical or biological weapons as a last ditch effort to crush the opposition though he claims that he wouldn't use it against the Syrian people (even as he calls the fighters arrayed against him foreign terror groups and proxies of the US and/or Israel, Syria, Qatar or others).
Meanwhile, Russia has dispatched more ships and ground forces to their port in Tartus; they are claiming that they are there to protect Russia's personnel and infrastructure at the port.
Rebel forces have again claimed that the regime carried out massacres in Hama, while both sides are blaming the other for a mortar attack against a Palestinian refugee camp that killed nearly 2 dozen civilians.
Labels: Bashar al-Assad, Civil War, diplomacy, Free Syrian Army, Kofi Annan, Middle East, Military, Russia, Syria, Syrian National Council