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Former Syrian prime minister Riad Hijab made his first public appearance since defecting last week.  He dropped a bombshell--in apparent preparation for a last stand in Aleppo, the Assad regime has ceded so much territory to the rebels that the insurgents control about 70 percent of the country.

“I assure you, from my experience and former position, that the regime is collapsing, spiritually and financially, as it escalates militarily,” said Mr Hijab, who served as a cabinet minister and provincial governor before Mr Assad made him prime minister in June.

“It [the regime] no longer controls more than 30 per cent of Syrian territory,” added Mr Hijab. “So let the shining revolution be completed.”

Mr Assad is believed to have massed thousands of troops for the assault on rebel forces in Aleppo, the commercial capital. To mobilise these units, he has effectively turned over large areas of rural Syria to the insurgents.

Assad is playing with fire here by betting everything on Aleppo.  If he loses that city, he's effectively cut off from the outside world.  The closest parallel I can draw is to the Libyan uprising, in which Benghazi and virtually the entire eastern half of the country went over to the rebels.  In hindsight, once that happened, it was game over for Qaddafi--the only reason he held out for so long is that he had better-trained soldiers.

Hijab also said he defected out of revulsion at the violent way the regime is trying to put down the revolt, saying he felt duty-bound to "wash my hands of this corrupt regime."  If he's right about Assad controlling only 30 percent of the country, we may be talking in terms of weeks, not months, before he finally gets toppled.  Especially if Aleppo falls.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Assad is doing one of two things here (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mookins, killjoy

    He is either preparing for a last stand and is gambling on an all-or-nothing strategy. Of course, we all saw how well that sort of plan worked out for Khadafy in Libya.

    Or he is trying to clear as many Sunnis out of the traditional Alawite homeland area along the coast to create a breakaway Alawite majority state and cede the rest of Syria to the Sunnis.

    •  I'd be surprised if there (0+ / 0-)

      is much grand strategy to what Assad is doing anymore.  He can't trust the bulk of his troops and its combat quality, not that high to begin with, is very degraded after this long a campaign.  It's all about tactical victories staving off political and strategic defeats for as long as possible for Assad.  And retaliations for insults and injuries.

      Seceding the coastal provinces and in effect making them an extension of Lebanon is an interesting idea.  But when Assad's regime has to abandon Syria, the collapse of the movements and forces Assad has long sustained in Lebanon becomes just about inevitable.  (Maybe Iran can prop them a little longer.)  Political order and partitions of power in Lebanon will change drastically.

  •  Very good analysis of situation in Syria by nun (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    •  The FSA seems to be a mix of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Claudius Bombarnac

      islamic fundamentalists, fighters from other islamic countries, Saudi paid mercenaries and other crazies.   Only a very small fraction among them appear to be sincere secular anti-regime fighters.   They seem to have total indifferenceto civilian life loss of life, as they have used  civilians as human shields (i.e. by deliberately going an fighting the Assad regime in densely populated areas of Aleppo).

      I used to think that the rebels there are as bad as the Assad regime.   Now, I am convinced that they are worse and that country will be completely destroyed if they take over.   It would become a fragmented Islamic fundamentalist country.  Just my opinion.

      •  A very large percentage of the opposition did not (0+ / 0-)

        want their protests militarized. Unfortunately, the MSM has not given them a voice.

        It's all about regime change at any cost. The foreign powers that have been meddling in the situation do not give a damn about "democracy and freedom". One just needs to look at the political  situation in the countries involved - Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Both are authoritarian monarchies that have human rights violations as bad or worse than Assad.

        The nun in the video is correct. They only have their own self interest.

    •  Yeah, the status quo ante (0+ / 0-)

      was all sweetness, light, and justice.

      It is kind of amusing to watch a Syrian Christian nun probably from a merchant family tell working class Syrian Sunnis that they are guests/strangers in their own country should just get over 50+ years of being discriminated against, insulted, abused, killed, and oppressed.  Jesus of Nazareth probably would not have agreed with the Sunnis on religion but he would definitely have stood by them in their suffering and insisted on justice for them.  Syrian "Christians", not so much.  

      She means well but her moral accounting is too wrong to respect.  It's all a plea to restore the status quo ante because that was working so well.  She's probably going to be a refugee in a year and on a lecture circuit telling American megachurch attenders how innocent Christians are being persecuted in Syria.  

      •  So, what do you think of the rebels? (0+ / 0-)

        How about their crimes?  These guys are islamic fundamentalists crazies.   All the videos posted by them show them yelling "Allahu Akbar", including the ones that show some terrible crimes they commit.   Is that who is fighting for democracy?  Islamic fundamentalists supported by the Saudis?  

        •  I think they're right to rebel (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cynical Copper

          and your objections are conservative- who could find fault with the 2010-11 status quo in Syria?- and in practice aesthetic.

          In many cases democracy arises where the people fighting for it are very imperfect.  It's another conservative fallacy to assume, or pretend, that only highly virtuous people can generate the conditions for and necessity of democratic government.  Democracy arises when group status leveling has occurred and violent scores between groups are settled, when no other option remains.  Peace and democracy in South Africa was made between two groups with plenty of blood on their hands and nondemocratic ideologies- but they'd decided that it was enough violence to settle the desire for revenge and enough to void their claims to superior status.

          Ain't pretty how people usually settle violent group scores.  But it's rare that you can stop them.  And forgiveness is not a successful strategy when there is no repentance and no atonement and no restitution by the offenders.

          I'm not sure what your problem with 'Allah akhbar' is.  I hope it's not Islamophobia.  Working class people outside the contemporary West mostly have cultures of piety and use the language of piety among each other.  Some of those transcripts of Libyans exchanging war news on the phone last year were so full of habitual 'Allah akhbars' that it made up 50% or so of the verbal content of their exchanges.  The people from X have arrived with AK-47s, Allah akhbar, and my relatives in X are all safe they say, Allah akhbar....  It becomes merely an intensifier and tic after a while, not an indicator of militant dogmatic Islamism.

          I can't do anything about the long history of Alawite abuse of Sunnis with Christians enabling it.  There is a price to pay for all the dead and injured, and this nun is part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

          •  Saudi Arabia-style democracy? (0+ / 0-)

            The major supporters of the rebels there (including paying their salaries and giving them weapons) are Saudi Arabia and Qatar.     I assume that's because these countries have perfect democracies and working to export them.   Right?

            Also, the way the rebels are behaving is clearly against civilians.   Why did they occupied civilian areas and brought the war there, so civilians are killed?  That's called using civilians as human shields.  

            They also take hostages and threaten to kill them , while they have been committing despicable war crimes, although the media here have selectively focused only on what Assad does.   The video in the link is one of many examples that are on you tube, including some others with decapitations.  

            How are these people fighting for democracy?  As for the Allah Akbar, watch in that video how many times they scream that, while throwing dead bodies.    These guys are islamic fundamentalists and if they take over, things will be in Syria worse than what they are now.  

            Although like all dictatorships, the Assad regime is terrible, it is at least secular.  Clearly, Islamic fundamentalist regimes, like the Taliban were, are much worse.

            •  I think we heard exactly (0+ / 0-)

              the same 'argument' used against the uprising forces in Libya a year ago.   None of it was bourn out.  I am fairly confident it's the same involving Syria's uprising.  

              You're a pretty classical employer of the throw as many emotion-appealing arguments at the opponent as possible tactic, no matter how contradictory or repetitive or scurrilous the particular arguments are.  

      •  You have also lived in Syria 20+ years? (0+ / 0-)

        How have the Christians fared in Iraq? How many are left and what is their current life like? You think it will be any different in Syria, especially with Sunni's in full control?

        I believe the nun knows much more about what is going on than you do.

        •  Around 5 million remain (0+ / 0-)

          as far as I know.  But they didn't follow actual Christian teachings in their dealings with Muslims for many years.  Similarly so in Iraq and in Egypt- in all three cases they collaborated with dictators against the weakest and poorest but majority social groups out of a lack of physical and moral courage and unwillingness to suffer.  I guess Palestine and Lebanon are also significant examples.g

          I'm not terribly sympathetic toward religious groups that lie to themselves and to outsiders.  I don't want to see them killed, but if their injustice and haughtiness blind them to reality, there is a cost for that which will have to be paid in some way.

          Outbreak of mass sectarian violence was a major concern to the knowledgeable as soon as the Assad regime looked even slightly challenged.  Likely Iraqi Sunni-Shiite-Kurd-Nestorian Christian violence and score settling and massacres/expulsions were actually a major topic of discussion among Left-liberals in 2002 as Bush proposed to invade Iraq and topple Hussein.  I think you can find Ted Kennedy's speech against the AUMF online of October 2002 in which he pointed out that a  breakup of Iraq and civil war among these groups was the major likely outcome of removing Hussein.  The general American liberal opposition was based in that Bush people had no realistic plan of what to do with Iraq after Hussein.  This turned out to be true.  The result was five plus years of nonproductive American participation in a war between Iraqis.

          The nun has no news, just macroscopic naivite she tries to make up for with moralism about details.  She knows all the trees well but can't see the forest for all the trees.  She never addresses the problem of justice and for that I deem her a moral failure.

          •  There never was 5 million Christians in Iraq (0+ / 0-)
            Exodus From North Signals Iraqi Christians’ Slow Decline

             The Christians in northern Iraq make up a tiny fraction of Iraq’s legions of displaced people. In all, there are 1.3 million of them across the country, according to the most recent United Nations estimates. Many live in garbage dumps, shanty towns and squalor far worse than anything facing the Christian families in Kurdistan.

            Still, Christians and other minorities were singled out in the years of sectarian cleansing that bifurcated a once-diverse Baghdad into pockets of Sunnis and Shiites. Estimates by the United States and international organizations say that Iraq’s prewar Christian population of 800,000 to 1.4 million now stands at less than 500,000.

            “The consequence of this flight may be the end of Christianity in Iraq,” the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote in its most recent annual report, summarizing the concerns of church leaders.

            The nun has no news, just macroscopic naivite she tries to make up for with moralism about details.
            The nun is not alone in her assessment of the rebels in Aleppo.
            Syria: Some in opposition fear rebels miscalculated in Aleppo

            "Seventy percent of the refugees here are pro-regime, or at least pro-stability," said the director of a school being used to house the displaced. "We are helping people who are still supporting the regime."
            "The people of Aleppo need to wake up," said Zakaria, who works with the Aleppo Military Council.

            He believes that only by witnessing wanton destruction by forces loyal to Assad in their own backyard — rather than just watching propaganda on state television — will Aleppo's residents fully support the rebels.

            But it doesn't help that the majority of the rebels now making the streets their battlefield and squatting in schools and empty homes aren't sons of the city but rather come from the suburbs.

            "Where are the people of Aleppo?" asked Abu Rayan, an engineering student-turned-fighter from Idlib province, while standing on the front lines in Salahuddin. "If you gathered all the fighters here, only two of them would be from Aleppo."

            She never addresses the problem of justice and for that I deem her a moral failure.
            Justice to you seems to be "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth". Syria will end up blind and toothless.
            •  You're right (0+ / 0-)

              I misread your post and gave you the 20% x ~25 million number for Syria.  For pre-invasion Iraq that used to be estimated as 8-10% of a population of ~27 million.

              The rest of your objections are wrong.  I don't set justice policy in Syria.  I do know people usually resort to armed retaliation when the judicial system doesn't provide justice when it matters.   Something like 10,000 unarmed protesters were gunned down by Assad forces without a single one arrested or jailed by Syrian law enforcement before the opposition began to take up arms.

              I feel sorry for the Christians of both countries, but as far as I know they didn't come anywhere close to what their religion expects of them in moral behavior.  They're Christian-ish.  And they miscalculated disastrously by siding with a dictator.  You may have noticed that the Assad defense minister killed in the building bombing was a Syrian Christian.  His community was proud of him and sided with him/Assad at his burial.  Stupidity is tolerated in peacetime but not so much during wars.

              The nun remains wrong in a penny wise, pound foolish sense.  Truth is not determined by a vote or collective impression.  Justice is not about telling aggrieved parties to get over it.  

              I expect Syria to become a partial wreck rather resembling Iraq or Libya.  But that's mostly bricks and mortar and such that can be repaired fairly quickly.  If it resolves the previously fundamental divisions in Syrian society, involving millions of people on all three major sides, then that's usually considered an acceptable price in retrospect.

              •  People lives mean so little to you - as long as (0+ / 0-)

                they are not American? Millions killed, maimed and displaced in Iraq... tens of thousands in Libya. The US and it's allies have killed far more of the citizens of these countries than the dictators themselves ever did.

                I expect Syria to become a partial wreck rather resembling Iraq or Libya.  But that's mostly bricks and mortar and such that can be repaired fairly quickly.  If it resolves the previously fundamental divisions in Syrian society, involving millions of people on all three major sides, then that's usually considered an acceptable price in retrospect.
                What gives you (or the US) the God-given right to determine what is "acceptable"? This reasoning is why the US has killed more than 10,000,000 men, women and children since WWII in it's dozens of overt and covert interventions world wide. Killing is justified in the name of "democracy and freedom" as long it is "democracy and freedom" acceptable to American interests.

                Has it ever occurred to you that there are other ways to resolve conflict than bombs and killing?

  •  Can we look at the numbers before anyone gets (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    1918, Odysseus

    overly excited?

    Syria has an area of 185,180 sq. km.

    At least 95,000 sq. km - or 51% - is empty barren desert which is not under the control of anyone now and even before 2011 wasn't really under the control of the Syrian Government who didn't spend much of the country's resources on 'controlling' it.

    1,295 sq. km - or 0.7% - is occupied by Israel.

    About 24,000 sq. km - or 12.9% - is under the control of Kurdish groups but there is a symbolic Syrian Government presence in most of that.

    Which leaves 35.4%, and of this 5% might be controlled by the rebels - mostly in the Aleppo and Idlib Governorates, but this 5% is not in one block. It is in a lot of patchwork pieces.

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

    by InAntalya on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 08:07:16 AM PDT

  •  In dictatorships (0+ / 0-)

    it's usual for about 30% of the population to side with the regime.  Civil wars or regime change wars happen when about 30% of the population decides to fight rather than submit.  The wars are decided by the remaining 40% going from neutral to passively, or in some cases actively, in favor of the rebellion.  Then the regime supporting 30% starts to break up.

    As pointed out, this assessment of 30% control is not really tenable as geographical fact.  But as a population control fact it works somewhat.

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