by James Dunnigan
In Syria the Assads are having greater battlefield success in the last three month mainly because of the foreigners, who are there mainly because of Iranian cash and advisors. Iran has recruited an army of fanatic Shia men, mainly from Iraq and Lebanon, to revive the combat capabilities of the Assad forces. That, plus the growing divisions among the rebels, has allowed Assad forces to defeat the rebels in many areas. There are dozens of separate battlefields in Syria, and on most of them the rebels continue to hold their own. But in key areas like Damascus, Aleppo, and the Lebanese and Jordanian borders the Assad forces are pushing the rebels back.
Despite its own cash flow problems at home Iran continues to supply crucial support for the Assad government and those efforts are succeeding. Iran has not put a lot of Iranians into Syria, but there is a constant supply of cash (in the form of dollars and euros), very effective military, security and other advisors, and some equipment and weapons. The cash and personnel tend to arrive by air on several night flights a week from Iran. These flights cross Iraq, which tries to pretend they don’t exist, but American radar operating in Kuwait and aboard ships in the Persian Gulf can spot these flights, but complaints to Iraq continue to have no effect. There is still a lot of trade between Iran and Iraq and some of the trucks from Iran continue all the way to Syria. This is a dangerous route because western Iraq (Anbar province) is largely Sunni and full of Islamic terrorists. The government has nearly 30,000 police and soldiers in Anbar and thousands of men in pro-government militias. This is keeping al Qaeda from taking over Anbar and the violence there is increasing.
The Assads, with the help of Russia and Iran, have been trying to depict the rebellion as an effort by al Qaeda to establish a new base in Syria. While this is true, the Islamic terrorist groups are a small part of the rebel force and often more disruptive than helpful to the rebels. The Assads see the rebel lack of unity and coordination as an opportunity to put down the rebellion. To this end the government is deliberately making life miserable for pro-rebel civilians (the majority of Syrians) and has succeeded in driving most of them out of the country or their homes or cutting their living standards considerably. The UN estimates that over nine-million Syrians (40 percent of the population) are in need of food and other aid. A third of these people are still in their homes but cut off from food and other supplies. This is largely the result of a deliberate Assad strategy of cutting pro-rebel populations from supplies. The goal is to make continued rule by the Assads preferable to supporting the rebels. Lately the government has been making progress, aided by a foreign army of Shia fanatics organized (and paid for) by Iran and continued supplies of weapons from Russia. Iran also provides a lot of cash to keep the pro-Assad civilians living much better than the pro-rebel civilians. This sends a message, which more and more pro-rebel civilians are noticing.
Another measure of success for the Assad government is the change in the exchange rate for the Syrian pound. It is currently 115-120 pounds to the dollar. That’s up from 160 a week ago, 220 two months ago, and a peak of 300 three months ago. Inflation is still running at about 200 percent a year, and that will continue until the economy can be restored. The exchange rate was 50 pounds to the dollar before the rebellion began in 2011. The change in exchange rates also reflects the failure of the rebels to make much progress in the last few months. Aid from Russia and Iran has kept the Assad government and the Syrian Air Force going. Russian banks are also risking retaliation from the U.S. by helping the Syrian government get around sanctions. http://www.strategypage.com/dls/articles/The-Assads-Have-A-Victory-Plan-That-Is-Working-11-30-2013.asp