War-weariness key to ending fight over Homs

Paul Wood reports: Who is winning in Syria? It is a simple question with no simple answer.

You may think it is President Bashar al-Assad, with the rebels abandoning Homs. But further north, in Idlib and in Aleppo, government forces are under pressure.

The confusion arises because Syria is not one battlefield but several.

The rebels seem incapable of acting as anything other than a series of local or, at best, regional militias.

That was the anguished complaint of the rebels in Homs – no-one else came to help them break the siege; no-one came to their rescue.

In Homs, the rebels were beaten by the Syrian army’s “surrender or starve” tactics. Fighters lost a third or even half of their body weight, they told us, as they hung on for two years.

They had no weapons to break the siege. The al-Nusra Front made a last attempt to break out with a series of suicide bombings against government checkpoints. They failed, and the jihadists joined the buses out with the rest of the fighters.

Further north, the rebels are, somehow, getting US-made anti-tank weapons. That has had a hand in their recent successes. It might account for the government’s apparent, desperate use of chlorine bombs. [Continue reading…]

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