Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Syria crisis: US accuses Iran of training militia – live updates

Brian Whitaker and Louisa Loveluck, Wednesday 15 August 2012

Hezbollah and Assad

When a prominent and outspoken Assad sympathiser gets arrested in Lebanon on terrorism charges, it is not merely a security issue, Patrick Galey writes in an article for Comment is free.

Discussing the arrest last week of former information minister Michel Samaha, he finds the lack of reaction from Hezbollah interesting:

As Lebanon braced itself for the violent fallout of Samaha's arrest, something strange happened: nothing. The expected backlash from fellow Assad supporters in Lebanon (and there are many) never came.

The reasons behind Hezbollah's restraint are straightforward, if a little unexpected. The party is not, as is commonly supposed, strategically allied to Assad (even if it may be so politically). For all the gossip that Hezbollah fighters are operating alongside pro-government gangs in Syria, its military arm has steadfastly refused to get drawn into conflicts within Lebanon concerning the Syria crisis ...

Hezbollah may prefer [Assad's] regime to the alternatives but it gets directives and funding from Iran, not Syria. For sure, the fall of a friendly regime would inconvenience Hezbollah. But an inconvenience is not worth tearing Lebanon apart for, and Hezbollah seems to understand this.
Regime's strategy 'is failing'

A no-fly zone in Syria would hasten the regime's fall, military analyst Jeffrey White writes in an article for the Washington Institute, an American thinktank. But even without that, "the regime's strategy for dealing with the rebellion is failing," he says.

White says regime casualties in July are estimated at 1,100 killed or wounded, and those of rebel fighters at 624. He points to "a number of processes" whose cumulative effects he says are wearing the regime down:

• Escalating clashes in nine of 14 provinces in July
Growing attrition in personnel and equipment from combat, defection, and assassination
• Signs that its forces are losing the will to fight (surrenders, abandoning of positions, failure to press attacks)
• Operational and tactical failures, including the loss of territory and positions
• Loss of the infrastructure of control due to seemingly well-conceptualised rebel attacks (eg, on police stations, checkpoints, border posts, intelligence and security offices, the headquarters of the Baath party and the regime's "Popular Army" militia)
• Improving rebel military capabilities in terms of organisation, numbers, and weapons
• Attacks on state-run or associated media facilities and personnel, undermining Assad's ability to control people and territory

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