Assad Forces Gaining Ground in Syria

(Washington Post) Liz Sly - Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are beginning to gain ground in the country's war, bolstered by a new strategy, the support of Iran and Russia and the assistance of fighters with Lebanon's Hizbullah. A series of modest, scattered gains by government forces in recent weeks has produced no decisive breakthrough. But the advances have been made in strategically important locations and point to a new level of direction and energy previously unseen in the army's performance. The ranks of the conventional Syrian army - weary, depleted and demoralized by defections, casualties and more than a year of continuous fighting - are being swelled by the deployment of some 60,000 mostly Alawite militia irregulars in the National Defense Force, trained at least in part by Hizbullah and Iranian advisers. Furthermore, instead of stretching its forces thin by trying to fight on multiple fronts across the country, the regime is focusing on a few key "nodes" considered essential to sustaining its hold on power. They include the Damascus suburbs, along with an arc of territory stretching to the ports of Latakia and Tartus. Hizbullah fighters are proving a tougher foe than the troops of the Syrian army, said Hussam Muhabeldeen, an activist in besieged Quseir. "The fighters tell us that battling Hizbullah is very difficult compared to the army," he said. "Hizbullah is more professional than the army."

2013-05-13 00:00:00

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