EAworldview Scott Lucas & Joanna Paraszuk – 11.11.2013 – The major developments of the week came on the military front, but they only reinforced the “dynamic stalemate” between the regime and the insurgency. The Syrian military — with help from Hezbollah fighters — had success in Aleppo Province, with the capture of as-Safira to the east of its besieged areas of Aleppo, and advances in the southern Damascus suburbs. The insurgents, however, took a key location and a haul of weapons when they overran the Mahin ammunition depot in Homs Province.
And, in the “other” front in the north, Kurdish militia consolidated their belt of territory in northeast Hasakah Province while holding other towns like Ras al-Ayn. The endless political play of talks about “peace” talks continued, with United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi touring the Middle East and the US and Russia continuing to press for a gathering. However, the only shift was marginal: the opposition Syrian National Coalition said it would attend the conference but re-iterated pre-conditions such as a commitment for President Assad to leave power.
Moving towards winter, the conflict is likely to be marked by ripples and no break-throughs. The Syrian military can bombard and, with Hezbollah, mass forces for the capture of positions to relieve pressure on Aleppo and the capital. However, stretched in both men and resources, it can do so only at the expense of losing elsewhere. And there is no hope that it can regain control across the north.
The insurgency’s factions can co-ordinate for operations such as the seizure of the Mahin depot, but the opposition is too fragmented to mount a campaign across the country, or even against key cities. Saudi assistance is increasing, but it cannot compensate for the withdrawal of support from other countries such as the US.