Syrian insurgent gains expose Assad weaknesses

The Associated Press reports: In the span of a month, Syrian insurgents have routed government forces across the country’s northwest, flushing them out of strongholds in a string of embarrassing defeats for President Bashar Assad.

The first to go was the city of Idlib, which fell to opposition fighters at the end of March, followed by the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughour last week and the Qarmeed military base on Monday. Troops are now under fire at the few remaining outposts still in government hands.

The disintegration of government forces in Idlib province, coupled with recent losses in southern Syria, has punctured the notion that Assad is on his way to defeating the four-year-old rebellion and undermined his claim to be a bulwark against the Islamic State group, which had eclipsed the rebels over the past year.

The campaign also points to a new unity and assertiveness within the constellation of opposition forces, which has long been riven by infighting. And it has exposed the government’s fundamental weaknesses — including lack of manpower, battle fatigue and a heavy reliance on Iran and other allies.

“It’s really indicative of some huge problems the regime has,” said Noah Bonsey, a Syria analyst for the International Crisis group. “What we’re seeing now is the best evidence yet of a trend we’ve already known about: the regime’s attrition rate is quite high and it can’t replace the soldiers and militiamen that it loses with equally effective Syrian manpower.” [Continue reading…]

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