The ferocity of the blast that struck a luxury hotel yesterday in Syria’s second city of Homs hides one detail — that Bashar Al Assad is gaining ground despite the rebels making occasional headways in the country fighting an insurgency for more than three years. As the Carlton Citadel Hotel blew up in Aleppo, Syria’s cultural hub, the plume of smoke and dust was reminiscent of a huge setback to the regime fighting to stay put after 150,000 people have died and millions more displaced or refugees in other countries.
Assad’s regime, which blames “terrorists” for the upheaval in the West Asian country, has been the most resilient of all dispensations in the Arab Spring nations. The Syrian president, fighting with the help of his backers — Hezbollah, Iran, Russia and to some extent China — has tried to put up a façade of legitimacy by blaming insurgents for all the bloodletting and trying to maintain a charade of normalcy by declaring elections. The embattled leader will be contesting for another presidential term on June 3.
After being walloped by opposition forces for months and incurring heavy losses, Syrian troops have taken back the strategic city of Homs — called the cradle of the revolution. The city, which has mixed ethnicity and lies midway between Damascus and Aleppo, was held by opposition fighters. Regime troops had laid a siege to the outside — with civilians caught inside the city without food and medicine for months. The situation has changed with government and rebels agreeing to break the siege. Yesterday, a large number of fighters and civilians left the besieged city after months as part of an agreement.
The rebels have been demanding better weaponry and logistics from their supporters in the Gulf and the West. Though rebels have been known to possess advanced weapons systems and have offered strong resistance to Syrian troops, they are after all, a motley confederation of disjointed groups often at odds with one another. The lack of a centralised leadership has been the bane of the rebellion against Assad.
Though the explosion blowing up the Aleppo hotel may show that rebels have the upper hand, Syrian troops are slowly chipping away at the strengths of the rebellion. Assad is trying to consolidate his position and cement his legitimacy by announcing the June 3 presidential vote.
With the opposition suffering reversals, it won’t take very long before the rebellion is considerably weakened if it is not resurrected by the international community. It is for the rebel leaders to take stock of the situation and fortify themselves against the brutal regime. The fight against Assad’s troops has to be made consistently sustainable with the help of strategic moves by opposition fighters.