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July 15, 2012 was the beginning of operation “Damascus Volcano” when the Syrian rebels took an advantage to enter several districts in the capital for the first time and surprised the regime in the 4th day by assassinating four senior government officials. Unfortunately, the surprise factor did not last long and the rebels could not hold their positions for much longer time as it has been happening in Aleppo, the industrial capital.

Four months later, the rebels tried to advance in Damascus and capture the Damascus International Airport, but they only succeeded in sieging it and closing the highway that connects downtown Damascus with the airport, and that did not last long.

Right now, all the eyes are heading to the next battle in Damascus, especially after the rebels’ advancements in Jobar district, near Al-Abbasyein soccer stadium and Darya, a stronghold city close to the 4th division headquarters in Al-Mazzeh. However, the situation is in a relative stalemate and the road to capture Damascus is still beyond the reach of the Syrian rebels.

 

So why Damascus is still in the regime’s hands and what are the obstacles that face the Syrian rebels ?

Firstly, the regime’s response to the advancements of the rebels has been supported by the random shelling in a way that does not differentiate between a human and a stone. As a result, it is still present in the memory of the Damascus residents what has been happening to Aleppo and Homs due to rebels’ existence there. Therefore, Damascus residents are not going to welcome the Syrian rebels and to take risk of putting their properties under intensive bombardment as we have been witnessing in Barzeh district, northeastern Damascus.

Secondly, a great part of Damascus is under the regime control in a way that the governmental and the educational institutions are still working and the employees are still taking their salaries. In other words, the regime’s sense is still present despite the sanctions and the ongoing conflict in the Damascus outskirts. Furthermore, the Syrian rebels have not approached this level of supporting services to the civilians in the liberated territories due to the shortage of the financial support, the regime’s presence through its jet fighters and informers, and the lack of experience in managing the civil society.

Thirdly, the Assad’s forces are present with huge numbers in Damascus. They consist of at least five divisions including the Republican guards and the 4th Division, which both are the elite forces in the Assad’s army. In contrast, there is only one division, the 17th one, which is responsible for the eastern part of Syria. Moreover, the Assad’s artillery is positioned in the Qasioun Mountain that is the highest strategic point overlooking on Damascus from the west. Consequently, the rebels will face the brutal bombardment if they advance without any ability to respond.

Fourthly, the supply route for the rebels should maintain the continuous influx of the arms, ammunition and fighters. In other words, the rebels should liberate the Daraa’ province and the Damascus suburbs completely. In this way they will put their hands on the Daraa’-Damascus highway for a steady supply from the south.

 

What are the rebels doing now to advance?

They are defending their positions in Otaibeh, Damascus countryside, to keep the circle around the downtown Damascus. In addition, they have initiated the operation “Horaan Volcano”, in which its purpose is to maintain their grip over the Daraa’ province and eliminate any existence of the regime there. Moreover, their defenses in the frontlines of Jobar, Barzeh and Darayya are critical to keep the regime’s forces busy at more than one side.

By maintaining this strategy, the rebels will cut the regime’s supply routes from the south and east. This will allow them to advance in Damascus more quickly and let the grip on Assad tighten. In contrast, this strategy has a down side in which the Damascus residents will have to flee their homes to the countryside or to Lebanon due to the intensive shelling technique, which the regime will use to delay the rebels marching towards downtown Damascus.

The complete capturing of Damascus is inevitable, but it is a way yet too far to accomplish, contrary to what is broadcasted in the media about the beginning of the battle in summer 2013.

It would be accelerated if the west increase the aid for the Syrian rebels, supply them with sophisticated weapons and establish a buffer zone in Daraa’, but Mr.Obama is busy, right now, with the American middle class rather than the middle east issues. He does not want to be involved in a war that may damage the U.S economy.

In other words, that day will come when the west will intervene more thoroughly to topple the Assad’s regime, but that will be according to the west own calculations and benefits not the Syrians’ ones.

Written by Free Syrian Blog.

Sources:

Via Wikipedia: Battle of Damascus (2012).

Via BBC: Damascus: The changing face of Syria’s capital.

Via The Guardian: Syria: Jordan to spearhead Saudi Arabian arms drive.

Via The Guardian: Syrian crisis: Damascus adjusts to the constant sound of war.

Via The Real Clear World: The Battle of Armageddon.

Via The Washington Post: U.S., Jordan stepping up training of Syrian opposition. 

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