The New York Times reports: In a striking admission, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria said on Sunday that the country’s army faced a manpower shortage and had ceded some areas to insurgents in order to hold onto other regions deemed more important.
Mr. Assad also acknowledged in a speech televised from Damascus, the Syrian capital, that many Syrians could not watch the address because of the lack of electricity in many areas and noted the economic hardships that people are facing after more than four years of an increasingly complex civil war.
What was unusual was not the fact of the struggles that Mr. Assad mentioned, which have been obvious for some time, but his mentioning them at all. It was his most substantive public nod yet to the magnitude of the challenges to his government and of the struggles confronting ordinary Syrians. In previous public speeches and interviews, he has sometimes seemed at odds with reality, glossing over setbacks and denying that the government is dropping barrel bombs in the northern city of Aleppo, a well-documented and regular occurrence. [Continue reading…]