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How Relevant to Syria is Syria’s Regime?

December 8, 2016

By Jett Goldsmith

On October 31, 2016, the Turkish daily newspaper Yeni Şafak reported that Turkey and Russia signed a “landmark agreement” in northern Syria, ostensibly partitioning portions of the provinces of Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Raqqa, Al-Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor to a Turkish-backed assembly of “local elements” and FSA-aligned brigades.

This report is unconfirmed by independent sources – Yeni Şafak operates with a hardline pro-Erdoğan editorial stance, and the paper has been known for inventing stories in the past – but it reveals the new status quo which has conformed to the on-the-ground reality of conflict in Syria: the Assad regime is simply no longer central to the discussion.

This new reality may be difficult to parse for those who have identified the conflict as a simplistic portrayal of the Assad regime fighting against an opposition composed almost entirely of ISIS and Al-Qaeda militants. But that storyline, albeit pushed conveniently by state-run media outlets owned by Syria’s foreign backers, is almost entirely false.

On the side of the regime, most offensives are headed by a collection of loyalist militias and foreign, Iran-funded proxies. Hezbollah, which recently released a set of propaganda photos showing a parade of its American-made Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) in Syria, has lost more fighters to date in the Syrian war than it has in the entirety of its three-decade-long war with Israel. And as Rao Komar wrote for NOW Lebanon in November, pro-Assad proxy militias are becoming increasingly comprised of Pakistani and Afghan Shiite fighters from the furthest expanses of Iran’s influence.

This reality in which the regime wields little influence over its territory is reflected practically in policy discussions between change-makers on the ground in Syria. On November 7, 2016, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford reported that the United States had met with its Turkish counterparts in Syria, and agreed to develop a plan for “seizing, holding, and governing Raqqa” after Islamic State fighters are driven from the territory.

Turkey has recently backed FSA brigades and local militias in the fight, dubbed “Operation Euphrates Shield”, to drive ISIS from northern Syria, while the United States has relied heavily on the use of Kurdish YPG brigades integrated into the coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Along these lines, most territory liberated by Turkey – particularly towns on the west bank of the Euphrates River, such as Qabbasin and Tel Rifat – has been handed over for governance to FSA forces, while much territory liberated by the SDF – such as the city of Manbij – has been ceded to YPG governance.

It’s likely that such a plan between Turkey and the United States would reflect a compromise between the two powers’ preferences for governance, a de facto partition of Syrian territory which will see the Syrian state’s grasp over its land and economy decline even further. When Turkey isn’t ceding territory to FSA militias, it is threatening the use of military force – in Al Bab, Afrin, Tel Abyad, Sinjar, and Tel Afar – a posturing which has rarely been met with any sort of response by the Assad regime.

None of the land captured by foreign-backed forces in northern Syria has been ceded to the Assad regime, nor does the regime have a practical capability to assert its desire to control this territory. As it stands, the Syrian Arab Army and its collection of fledgling loyalist and foreign militias barely has the capacity to govern its own territory – and though the most recent regime coalition offensive on the eastern portion of Aleppo city has been successful in seizing nearly the entirety of Aleppo from opposition forces, it has been bolstered by an intensive bombing campaign from Syria’s superpower patron state, the Russian Federation, as well as the IRGC’s wide-ranging network of proxy groups.

The proxy war for Syria

A rescue worker stands amid rows of dead bodies which had suffered sarin exposure. Ghouta, Damascus, August 21, 2013

A rescue worker stands amid rows of dead bodies which had suffered Sarin exposure. Ghouta, Damascus, August 21, 2013

In the hours following the horrific Ghouta chemical attacks on August 21st, 2013, a German naval intelligence craft intercepted a communication between a high-ranking Hezbollah operative in Syria and an official at an unnamed Iranian embassy.

In the intercepted communication, the Hezbollah operative bemoaned Assad’s order to use sarin gas on a residential suburb of Syria’s capital city. “Assad had lost his temper and committed a huge mistake by giving the order for the poison gas use,” the Hezbollah operative was reported to have said.

In the recent Aleppo offensive in February of 2016, in which opposition forces headed largely by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham captured numerous strategic points involved in breaking the siege of eastern Aleppo city, alleged Hezbollah fighters were captured on video mocking the Syrian Arab Army for being effectively nonexistent. “We can’t find them anywhere,” one Hezbollah fighter says, perhaps referencing reported cases of SAA fighters fleeing from their positions – like in the heavily fortified military academy complex – in response to successful advances by opposition fighters.

These two instances are simply a slice of all the unheard chatter shared between fighters across the battlefield in Syria, but they capture the current state of Assad’s armed forces better than most: both involve foreign agents – fighting on behalf of Assad – speaking contemptuously of the regime they’re fighting for.

This deep sense of contempt held by regime coalition forces is also reflective of the group composition of these foreign, largely Iranian-backed militias.

In Iraq, Shiite militia fighters are being ferried to Syria by Iran, where their salaries are paid by the IRGC to fight on behalf of the Assad regime. In August of 2016, senior US military officials reported that Iran was paying the salaries of nearly 100,000 Shiite militia fighters – largely bannered under Hezbollah, or the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) – fighting in Iraq.

In 2013, Al-Monitor reported that 14 Iranian-backed Shiite brigades were operating in Syria, with many comprised of foreign fighters from Iraq and (increasingly) Afghanistan. In January of 2016, the spokesman for the Iranian-established paramilitary Badr Brigades said that “[Iraqi] fighters, along with the Lebanese Hezbollah militants, have a great positive impact on the course of the war against IS in Syria.”

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba is another prominent force directing regime offensives, primarily in Aleppo. The group publishes frequent reports on its offensives in Syria, operates at least 3,000 fighters in Aleppo, and is a direct descendant of the similarly Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq. Despite both groups’ propagation of jihadist ideology, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba has frequently clashed with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham in Syria; Iranian state media released footage in May of Hezbollah al-Nujaba fighters killing 23 JFS fighters (then known as Jabhat al-Nusra) in Khan Touman, Aleppo.

In fronts throughout the country, regime offensives are being led by loyalist militias. These militias often have little institutional connection to the Syrian Army beyond making use of its logistics framework, but are frequently led by pre-war shabiha with business and family connections to the Assad regime. Fighters for these groups are largely motivated by either pro-Assad and pro-Ba’athist ideology, or more often, by personal profit.

Despite this, pro-government militias have been hit with attrition on a similar – if smaller – scale to that of the Syrian Arab Army. An Ahrar al-Sham fighter from Latakia, who requested to remain anonymous, tells me he has witnessed numerous defections from the pro-regime National Defence Forces (NDF) to Ahrar al-Sham, one of the hegemons of the Syrian opposition.

He described a rendezvous between Ahrar al-Sham commanders and several fighters from the NDF who had attempted to defect. “Many of these men simply don’t want to fight, let alone fight revolutionaries,” he told me.

“Forced conscripts especially would often defect,” he said. “Men taken off the streets, hiding in homes along the coast and in Damascus… “

Assad or We Burn the Country

“Assad or we burn the country” graffiti spraypainted by regime loyalist forces in Homs, roughly 2013

“Assad or we burn the country” graffiti spraypainted by regime loyalist forces in Homs, roughly 2013

And yet despite this reality of an increasingly fledgling regime presence in Syria, high-level diplomatic discussions have focused almost exclusively on one subject: the issue of what to do with Assad.

This is a strategy of diplomacy inherently doomed to fail, as localized regime loyalists have consistently proven that “Assad or we burn the country” is a slogan truly reflective of the regime’s core – those deeply committed to the Assads’ cult of personality will never accept a Syrian destiny controlled by anyone other than Assad.

And it is also a strategy of diplomacy inherently misdirected; despite the regime’s fierce, bloodthirsty defense of its “sovereign right” to rule Syria indefinitely, it possesses nowhere near the capacity to actually hold this stance. The Syrian Arab Army, once numbering in at nearly 625,000 active duty and reservist fighters, has been crippled by attrition, defections, and a constant siphon of knowledge and expertise. As defense policy analyst Tobias Schneider wrote in August for War on the Rocks:

“Following the swift collapse of its forces in the Battle for Idlib last year, President Bashar al-Assad had given a much publicized speech admitting the regime’s armed forces were suffering tremendous manpower shortages and would have to withdraw from certain fronts.  Newspapers had been reporting for many months before of desperate conscription and recruitment efforts around the country. By late July, Assad appeared to crumble under the cumulative weight of years of slow attrition and defection, triggering a combined Russian and Iranian intervention seeking to reverse the regime’s fortunes.”

Schneider agrees with the common assessment that the Russian and Iranian intervention has provided a precipice for the regime to desperately maintain its slipping grip over Syria, but he also addresses the warlord-based economy which has emerged as a direct result of severe regime attrition:

“While much better supplied by the Syrian Arab Army’s still-standing logistics skeleton, the government’s fighting force today consists of a dizzying array of hyper-local militias aligned with various factions, domestic and foreign sponsors, and local warlords. […] Today, where briefing maps now show solid red across Syria’s western governorates, they ought to distinguish dozens and perhaps even hundreds of small fiefdoms only nominally loyal to Assad. Indeed, in much of the country, loyalist security forces function like a grand racketeering scheme: simultaneously a cause and consequence of state collapse at the local level.”

How did Syria reach the point of “hundreds of small fiefdoms” united, however loosely, under a delicately hung portrait of Bashar al-Assad? Despite repeated assurances by Assad that he will remain in power indefinitely, and a steady stream of Orwellian, “we’ve always been at war with Eastasia”-esque claims that Syria is in fact better off now than it was five years ago, it has become increasingly apparent to the outside observer that the Syrian state has degraded into a series of localized fiefdoms run as mini-mafia states.

But this system isn’t spontaneous; it didn’t manifest simply overnight amid an attrition of centralized state structures. The foundation for devolution into the sort of state which would make a Somali warlord blush has been laid since the earliest days of the Syrian Ba’ath Party, making Syria’s contemporary series of fiefdoms a simple reflection of the country’s pre-war socioeconomic system – a cronyist, corporatist, oligarchic system which has been shown to be heavily reliant on patronage, and only sustainable in the short term.

The Thugocracy

A Hafez al-Assad family portrait showcases his sons and daughter along with his wife, Aniseh Makhlouf

A Hafez al-Assad family portrait showcases his sons and daughter along with his wife, Aniseh Makhlouf

Syria’s delicate pre-war sociopolitical status has led, perhaps more than any other factor, to the current state of Syrian society. As Hafez al-Assad seized power in an intra-party coup dubbed the Corrective Movement, he imposed a system of economic fiefdom and patronage described by Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila al-Shami as having a heavy mix of proto-fascist and corporatist tendencies.

Pre-war businessmen and those crime lords sanctioned by Hafez himself – the shabiha – comprised a major portion of the tiny sphere of influence which controlled every aspect of Syrian society. Prominent families tied to the Assads by marriage, such as the Makhloufs and the Shalish family, were afforded contracts and business deals which allowed them to establish total dominance over Syria’s economy. As Bashar al-Assad engaged in a period of neoliberal reform after his father’s death, cronyists like Rami Makhlouf were afforded the ability to turn their grip over the Syrian economy into a stranglehold, consolidating entire economic sectors and state industries into family-owned-and-operated conglomerates like SyriaTel and Cham Holdings.

In effect, Bashar’s efforts at neoliberal reform in the early 2000s elevated the level of economic disparity in Syria from untenable to revolutionary – a sentiment further onset by the driving forces of rapid urbanization, and the worst drought the Middle East has seen since humans invented agriculture.

In order to remain loyal to a regime which could offer little but personal empowerment and petty cash, loyalists were granted a relatively high degree of autonomy, and were able to smuggle arms, traffick drugs, and terrorize Syrians with impunity. The term shabiha, which was coined by Syrians to refer to the state-sanctioned quasi-paramilitary groups founded by Hafez al-Assad in the 1980s to traffick drugs and engage in illegal economic activities, means “ghosts” – a reference to the shabiha’s apparent impunity from punishment.

Many of these pre-war cronyists, both those shabiha and the people like Rami Makhlouf who operate under the auspices of legitimate business affairs,  are still active in the midst of Syria’s civil war. Many presently comprise the current warlord system of semi-autonomous militias and localized fiefdoms loyal to the regime, and in the wartime economy, these cronyists have managed to carve out a living roughly equivalent to the sort which they enjoyed prior to the outbreak of war.

In many instances, localized pro-Assad militias are led by robber-barons and opportunists who hail from the areas they purport to control; Sami Aubry, for example, used to operate nearly all of Syria’s amusement parks and entertainment centers, including Syria’s own off-brand franchise of “Chuck-E-Cheese”-styled restaurants. Now, he heads the National Defence Forces, one of the most prominent pro-regime militias active in Damascus and Aleppo.

It is this system which has led to the current state of affairs for the Assad regime: weakened, beset by attrition and economic peril, increasingly reliant on foreign backers and sectarian militias to secure its territorial endeavors.

And it has become increasingly important to apply this context to high-level diplomatic discussions on Syria: the regime is not, after all, a power broker in its own country. Hezbollah, Iranian-backed militias, and Russian airpower – in other words, foreign intervention – have ensured regime survival.

Jett Goldsmith

Jett Goldsmith is a writer and analyst from Denver, Colorado. He formerly co-founded the investigative reporting and geopolitical analysis outlet Conflict News, and writes at length on Ba'athist state structures and various actors within the Syrian conflict. He has bylines in various publications, including Middle East Eye. You can follow him on Twitter: @JettGoldsmith.

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  1. nyolci

    What a bit heap of BS! Actually, this is a ridiculous attempt to smear Syria during a time when Syrian forces are getting stronger by the day and liberating large territories.

    Turkey and the USA now are trying desperately to build up their own proxy forces to somehow partition the country, and this will be the next for the Syrians to overcome. The US is using the Kurds as proxies, and I wonder whether the Kurds want to become another Iraqi Kurdistan, a puppet entity that is famous for its corruption and internal problems.

    Recently the US is trying to provoke hostilities between the Kurds and other Syrians, with very moderate success. The Afrin Kurds are working with the Government to finish off the Turkish proxy terrorists (also known as the “FSA”). The Turks tried to make up a proxy force and puppet entitiy, and this rather small strip in Norther Aleppo is their last hope. Idlib will be liberated sooner or later, and an effective no fly zone has been established in the North (with the much publicized S-300 deployment to Kuweires).

    The above article is peddling the usual “SAA is almost nonexistent” line, when the SAA is liberating the rest of Aleppo in front of their eyes. The article is not even pretending to be a piece of analysis, eg. the mention of the Ghouta attacks looks like a foreign body, likely they HAD to include this particular propaganda piece.

    Just a last word. The offensive when “[moderate and less moderate headchoppers] captured numerous strategic points involved in breaking the siege of eastern Aleppo city” failed with enormous losses to the attackers. It was a massive (Western and Turkish) organized push, and the SAA gave up those blocks and the Academy for tactical reasons, ie. they let them in, and they could use heavy artillery. The corridor wasn’t useful at all, and this “breaking” turned out to be a Pyrrhic “victory”, most likely an intentional trap from the SAA.

      • nyolci

        What is this piece of information(?) supposed to mean in this discussion? Sorry, but could you please relevant? Individual draft dodgers don’t really matter, even large scale draft dodging can be ignored to a certain extent (like in the Ukraine, where cc. half of the soldiers doesn’t show up or desert or change side to the separatists as soon as possible, and the rest is not quite eager to die for the Junta and the CIA, that’s why Ukr. had to rely on neonazis on mass scale).

        • Cor

          Your information is based on Russian state propaganda. I see you never been in the Ukraine. Only Russia is lead by ultra nationalists.

  2. Raed Qishta

    Well said. And of course already annoyed the regime fanboys who regurgitate the SANA/RT/Press TV fantasy wherein Assad is a wise and benevolent father of the nation, with those who oppose him merely a troublesome collection of “head-choppers”. The fact that he needs all the external powers, also including China and Egypt amongst others, to safeguard his control of the areas that the regime – or rather its Iranian and Russian patrons – still occupies is a lot more revealing than SANA’s and RT’s “It’s a CIA-illuminati-Zio-Wahhabi plot man” swivel-eyed adolescent conspiracy theory gush ever was.

    • nyolci

      “The fact that he needs all the external powers”
      The estimated total supply in monetary terms that the West invested in this “rebelion”, including ISIS, is 46 billion dollars. This is the money to pay the mercenaries and for the gear imported from ex-soviet countries mostly (like Croatia, 2000 tonnes in 2014). Now speak about external powers.

    • CoalitionForChristmas

      Where is the research? Oh, you mean the ‘anonymous sources’?

      This is an opinion piece…a badly skewed one at that. Honestly, articles like this are an insult to OSINT. Stick to the fact finding, not smear pieces filled with personal insults

  3. Brian S

    A good review of the issue. One could add that the emerging “victory” in Aleppo underlines the marginality of the Syrian regime. Not only has the military advance been spearheaded by foreign and domestic militias (as even pro-regime sources concede) but the problems created by the displacement of people as a result of the conflict is being managed by the Russians (with some involvemenr of UN agencies) rather than the Syrian government. Even the much-vaunted “reconciliation” process has passed into the hands of the Russian Ministry of Defence.

    • nyolci

      Seriously, are you serious? How can you ignore reality in such a ridiculous way?
      “even pro-regime sources concede”
      WTF are you talking about?

      • Stephan

        nyolci, you seem to be the one ignoring reality with every comment you make. Foreign troops left and right spearhead the supposed “SAA” advance while you parrot blatant propaganda points, going so far as to smear Ukraine in another comment reminiscent of yesteryear’s Kremlin trolling attempts. Iraqi sectarian militias, Iranian troops, Afghan irregulars and last but not least Russian support lead the way while the remnants of the actual SAA hang back or bomb from the sky. Don’t try to lump random Syrian militias as actual SAA, you’re not fooling anyone.

        Your disinformation is simply insulting at this point. It is almost sad to see how frantically you post comments. The evidence that contradicts Russian MoD/SAA/your disinformation is out there and has been for a while now.

        • nyolci

          “[…] ignoring reality […] Foreign troops left and right spearhead the supposed “SAA” advance”
          The problem is that the evidence in this article is _anything_ but convincing, looks more like smear, bullsh.ting and disinformation.
          There are foreigners of course, but the bulk is and always was Syrian. Actually, the largest foreign component, Hezbollah, is not really “foreign”, Lebanon being French Colonial Syria, and the more extensive foreign help is quite new, Hezbollah being the first 2 years ago. The “rebels” were always characteristically foreigners and foreign supported. The Syrians resisted those a..holes successfully for 3-4 years without extensive foreign support.

          “smear Ukraine”
          Smear is rightly deserved, and I feel shame that we (ie. the West, I’m Hungarian) support that bloody regime. And please note: I have nothing to do with the Kremlin. The mass use of neonazis as cannon fodder, the low morale of the draftees, the mass desertions etc. are well documented, and supports the observation that the “revolution” in 2014 was a foreign supported coup de etat.

          • Stephan

            The only disinformation and “bullsh.ting” is coming from you and others that do not look outside of echo chambers while implying that my only source of information comes from Bellingcat. I’ve been tracking issues in Ukraine, Syria and Georgia since 2008.

            The rebels originated from non-violent Syrian protesters during the Arab Spring who were shot at and massacred in reprisal. Russia and Iran denied supporting Syria in 2014-2015 in what turned out to be a lie, similar to how Putin still claims that regular Russian troops aren’t fighting in Ukraine to this day. Note that I did not include Hezbollah in my original post, which actually was reported quite early into the conflict… and cherry picked to prove a counterpoint argument, ignoring IRGC and Russian support

            It is quite disingenuous to take the RT route and paste many of the rebels as foreigners when the conflict started as a civil war, and to take a word out of your mouth, “The [Syrian rebels] resisted those a..holes successfully for 3-4 years without extensive foreign support.” The bulk of the foreigners happens to be in what you call the monolithic SAA and ISIS (along with the Turks in the Euphrates Shield offensive). You could rail all you want about random US special forces in Syria (pointedly ignoring Assad while going after Daesh) when there are tens of thousands of foreign troops both regular and otherwise fighting for the regime, killing rebels rather than ISIS.

            Sure you have the TOWS and random equipment on the rebel side. And then you have Russian jets, cruise missiles and artillery, Iraqi sectarian militias and Iranian mechanized manpower effectively making up the bulk of the “SAA.”

            And now Ukraine. You seem to forget how the Euromaidan was also non-violent until the shootings of protesters by the Berkut under (and rightly so) the traitorous and corrupt Yanukovych. Don’t delve into conspiracy theories that originated from Russian media without proof. The moment the Euromaidan started was when Russian media departed from the honest reporting and started to cherry pick and fabricate evidence, turning to a head in their widely debunked theories of MH17.

            And there are still Russian troops in Ukraine, uniformed or not with the most up-to-date other uniquely Russian equipment [electronic warfare mobile trucks, among others]. Can’t even begin to play this off as “captured Ukrainian equipment.”

            Don’t even begin to presume Russophobia, which might be one of your next responses. Actions speak louder than words. Foreign support exists on all sides now, and you are hypocritical to tout the SAA and Assad as negligibly non-foreign supported when the overwhelming opposite is true.

          • stranger

            Stephan, I don’t know Syria so well, but as for Ukraine and particularly Maydan, you are wrong. That was not a peaceful protest. Please watch the videos including documentaries from Maydan especially the 3 last days about 18-20 of February. I would also recommend you to read at least Wikipedia on the chronology of Maydan – just please be careful with Ukrainian versions and their English translations. Try several different side sources to compare.

  4. Paul

    Yeah, no, bullsh*t.

    “Thit storyline, albeit pushed conveniently by state-run media outlets owned by Syria’s foreign enemies, is almost entirely false.” Fixed that for you.

    The Turkish backed FSA, Euphrates Shield, is undoubtedly the most pitiable piece on the Syrian chessboard, a few thousand fighters who were previously the weakest of the major regional FSA/rebel groupings. They’re crap, and would get driven out by any of the other factions, the YPG, the regime, ISIS, or the mainstream mostly salafist led rebels (if they got there) without powerful direct Turkish intervention. And Turkey isn’t going to get too involved with those groups in the face of Russian or US power.

    As for the idea that there are hundreds of small fiefdoms united only by a fanatical adherence to Assad, it doesn’t make a lot of sense really. Because when Assad wins, they’ll knuckle down under his authority, won’t they. That’s how the logic goes, isn’t it?

    Assad is getting stronger, his enemies are getting weaker. Yes, he’s dependent on his foreign allies, but less so than the rebels. They would be economically and logistically crippled within weeks if Turkey closed it’s borders. ISIS remains dangerous but is clearly dying, the YPG are closer to the government than they have ever been. Trump looks extremely unlikely to escalate against Assad, France will soon have a president who favours realpolitique over intervention, Jordan wants the war over, and Egypt is taking a stronger pro-government stance and may soon even send some forces to fight on their behalf. The Gulfies have nothing but money, and we, the Brits, have nothing but false piety and PR.

    It’s done in the long term. Maybe the Kurds will get a degree of autonomy; it’s possible the same could be true of a salafi ruled Idlib, where they can stone adulterers to death and throw gay men off buildings to their hearts desire, but ultimately the war is decided.

    It’s going to be very tough for the regime change crowd to accept though. All those Gulf funded “think” tanks, the reams of fake news journos, the establishment-captured NGOs, the bitterly disappointed neo-cons and R2P-ers, so condfident of a new Clinton Golden age now left facing reputational and career ruin, they won’t take it lying down. Which is why we’ll be reading stuff like this for a while yet, until reality painfully sinks in. However, here’s the thing. You’ve lost.

  5. Iouri

    Sorry but it’s obvious that the anti-Assad forces are as beholden to foreign powers as the pro-Assad forces. The Turkish-backed “FSA” forces are barely even Syrian. ISIS is well known for their international nature and even the various other groups have been drawing heavily on outside manpower as Syria itself is increasingly depleted of people willing to fight. There is an international anti-Assad coalition just like there is an international pro-Assad coalition. And the collapse of governance after a civil war this brutal and extensive is to be expected. And the situation is not helped by giant quantities of weapons funneled into the region by various players, not the least of which is the US.

  6. Mad Dog

    And how is Assad getting stronger? The really baffles me as his army is basically fading away and he has bombed his infrastructure to hell. Of course we can listen to the”BS” master, but most of his rantings are just that, rants. And the Syrian people continue to suffer while idjits like him call them silly names. People who rose up against this thugocracy had plenty of reason to do so and now we know even more how evil Assad and his allies really are. No BS there!

    • nyolci

      This is the usual BS of yours, buddy 🙂
      “People who rose up against this thugocracy”
      Each and every anecdotal and non-anecdotal survey has showed great support for Assad among Syrians and mass hatred towards those “People” you mention who are anyway characteristically foreigners and foreign controlled. So you don’t have to be baffled, this is the explanation.
      “his army is basically fading away ”
      There’s no evidence that this is the case, it is that simple. The most important reason must be that the Syrians simply don’t want the US type liberation the Iraqis, Libyans, Yemenis are getting, so they either run away or resist those thugs the US and its proxies are governing, arming and sending there. Lately, the Russian intervention has reversed this, and the Syrians seem to be winning.

        • nyolci

          “No one is winning”
          Currently the Syrians has a great momentum, and a quite good prospect for winning. The US proxies are retreating and getting badly beaten, they are giving up territories (most recently Al-Tal, this was hardly noticed in the press), and the US has less and less opportunities to save them.

          So, YES, the Syrians are winning now.

          • Cor

            And…. Are you happy now? Assad the people killer in command of a few cities in Syria.

    • Arya Stark

      Assad’s army evidently isnt fading away, it’s currently fighting successfully in a number of locations including Aleppo.

  7. stranger

    I believe the world should be focused on the termination of this bloody civil war where almost half a million have already died. No everybody is concerned to reach their political ambitions instead, including ‘the west’. The people should be provided the basic needs – safeness, food, medical aid – political demands are secondary. The secular Assad’s ‘regime’ where all groups may coexist including Syrian Christians is not the worst of what it can be in the Middle East. No ‘regime change’ is worth half a million victims.

    • Cor

      In the case of Syria it would be strange if there will be no regime change.
      It is Assad who is responsible for the most victims in Syria.
      And the most of the victims where Syrian people.
      But for you it is easy talking you not a Syrian. You do not have to live under his dictatorship.

      • nyolci

        “But for you it is easy talking you not a Syrian. You do not have to live under his dictatorship.”
        This is strange, ‘cos survey after survey show consistent support in the 70s for Assad among Syrians, and very apparently the people regard the SAA as liberators.
        1. perhaps he is not a dictator (or a mild one? 🙂 ). Perhaps the pre-attack Syria was not that bad at all. So much propaganda about it, most people get a bit skeptical.
        2. perhaps the alternatives are much worse, like the various opportunits and moderate headchoppers who’ve been offered by the regime change crowd to the Syrians. My impression is that the Syrians are quite clever, and they prefer a normal, secular, quasi socialist country instead of the Libyan and Afganistani democratic and secular a prosperous paradise that we (ie. the proud and advanced West) have given to those people as a gift. Or they just simply don’t want to be a second Honduras. Or Haiti. Or (…endless list…).

        To cut it short, I don’t want to insult the Syrians with demands like “dump Assad”. Let them decide. And apparently, they’ve decided.

      • stranger

        No regime change is worth half a million victims. When the other countries stir up unrests, finance and arm the rebels they invest into a civil war, which they cannot even manage.
        Assad is secular and Syria is multi confessional. If the groups of extremists come to the power, most strong and successful of them are less moderate as well, they may establish a strict religious state, which maybe much worse than the current government. Anyway the heating up a civil war is the worst possible decision.

      • stranger

        That was a whole chain of Arab Spring: Egypt, Lybia and other countries. They stuck only in Syria. Afaik in no country of Arab Spring the situation got better after the overthrow, but much worse.

  8. Andrea

    SAA is now getting kicked in the a** as soon as they have no foreign support:
    As i’m writing a well planned (from a strategic p.o.v.) offensive from IS is crushing on Palmyra…

    Demonstrating once more what i said a long time ago (and what the author of this article confirms): nowadays SAA is not able to stretch along Syria: they are regaining Aleppo, true, but only tanks to heavy pounding from the sky and from direct foreign help… And to get Aleppo they had to move manpower away from the fronts on which ISIS is actually present (southern Syria*, failed offensive towards Tabqa/Raqqa and Palmyra)…
    Maybe that great concert with Russian musicians wasn’t enough 😉

    A Forethought: welcome to Libya Pt.#2… A shi*load of militias fighting for power.

    PS: If IS gets control on Palmyra they would probably massacre anyone… and destroy what survived their first hit…

    • nyolci

      “a well planned (from a strategic p.o.v.) offensive from IS is crushing on Palmyra”
      Hm, the US is quite desperate. But this is not the summer of 2015, and now it’s not them who call the shots. This is another desperate attempt as the one that “broke” the “siege” of East Aleppo, and this will be just another costly Pyrrhic “victory”.

      • Andrea

        Costly indeed… but for who?
        IS: the more they die the better is for the world… so not a big deal…
        SAA: They lose men and put themselves in an even worst situation as they also lose a lot of equipment (well more important than those fking TOWs)…
        RuAF: They had to call their strategic aviation to be able to halt this IS assault caused by the inadequacy of SAA and the lack a proper strategy… And planes don’t fly for free…

        • nyolci

          “RuAF: They had to call their strategic aviation to be able to halt this IS assault caused by the inadequacy of SAA”
          Strategic aviation? Are you serious? Actually, the problem was (or still is?) a sandstorm, which hinders the use of _tactical_ aviation.
          As for the inadequacy, there’s an army that cannot do _anything_, even small things without constant air support. I kindly refer you to the US armed forces, they are the ones who are famous of calling in airstrikes immediately. So talk about inadequancies _now_ 🙂 .

    • nyolci

      “SAA is now getting kicked in the a**”
      Actually, it is a bit disturbing to see how joyful you are when these (undoubtedly kind and very liberal, intellectual, feminist democrat) headchoppers are on the offensive.

      • Andrea

        No way i’m in joy for an IS success… if you read reports you can objectively see that SAA was literally kicked badly by some “roaming warriors of the desert”…
        If IS gets control on Palmyra they would kill anyone and destroy those few monuments that survived their first passage: a loss for everyone…

        “undoubtedly kind and very liberal, intellectual, feminist democrat) headchoppers are on the offensive”

        To me those adjectives can be referred to SAA as well… or at least to the man that is in command: Assad…
        There are already reports of missing young males from those who fled Aleppo…

        • nyolci

          “if you read reports you can objectively see that SAA was literally kicked badly”
          Looks like a well organized offensive, combined with a sandstorm. Will be repelled, don’t worry.
          “To me those adjectives can be referred to SAA as well”
          How come?

  9. Sami

    Well quite good topic
    Epidemics resurgence
    Human rights questioning
    Poverty increasing
    Families embrigaded to enroll kids as knights and soldiers

    This is not a good topic?


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