Syrian Rebels , Lacking Weapons, Switch To “War Of Attrition”

From the Guardian, emphasis mine:

Despite widespread pledges of support from western and Arab states, the main Syrian opposition coalition says it has still not seen any significant increase in funding or arms supplies.

Members of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, formed in November, say that there is still no sign of western capitals relaxing their ban on delivering weapons to the rebels and that even Gulf Arab governments, which helped arm opposition groups last year, are supplying less with every passing week.

“The supplies are drying up. It is still Syrian expats – individuals – who are providing the funding by and large,” said a Syrian businessman who has helped to fund the opposition since the uprising began 22 months ago.

As a result, he said, the fragmented rebel forces have changed strategy, giving up hopes of a sweep through the country, and focusing instead on a gradual war of attrition: besieging isolated government military bases to stop the regime using planes and helicopters against them and ultimately to capture weapons, to compensate for the meagre supplies from abroad.

The fragmentation of those Syrian rebel forces is a major reason they’ve not seen more money and weapons from their Gulf allies, and Western pressure on those same allies over misgivings about extremist groups who seem to be taking over at the sharp end of the rebellion are another.

All in all, though, it is looking very like a) the expected rapid demise of the Assad regime won’t be all that rapid after all and b) Assad’s fall will hardly be the end of the Syrian multi-factional civil war. There are all kinds of reasons why the West should remain hands off despite the bloodshed – all the alternatives, from choosing factional sides in the post-Assad conflict to the many huge negatives of an Iraq-style intervention, are worse than what is happening now.

3 comments to Syrian Rebels , Lacking Weapons, Switch To “War Of Attrition”

  • “the expected rapid demise of the Assad regime won’t be all that rapid after all” Expected by whom? Somebody has been listening to wishful thinking and American exceptionalists too much. Anyone with military expertise and any knowledge of the MENA has been saying all along that this would drag out for a very long and bloody time.

    • JustPlainDave

      These things tend to hit tipping points where the conflict end stage proceeds quite rapidly compared to the build up. My sense is that events to date suggest that this fighting season could well be it. However, if the story is accurate and rebel combat capability has hard limits and is unlikely to grow the way that it frequently does in end states because the regime is mitigating effectively, well that could be pretty different. Magic 8 ball says “Reply hazy, try again”.

  • JustPlainDave

    If that’s truly their proposed strategy, they would be wise to experiment before going all in on it. Me, were I in the regime’s shoes, that would be music to my ears – plays to regime strengths more than the conflict has to date. Of course, I’m not sure they are uninvested enough to see that (and intra-regime competition might well make it more problematic).

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