The Assad regime’s military position is stronger in January 2014 than it was a year ago and remains committed to fighting for Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo. Nonetheless, the conflict remains at a military and political deadlock.
In the spring of 2013 the regime lacked the necessary manpower to conduct simultaneous operations on multiple fronts against rebel groups that were quickly making gains throughout the north, south, and Damascus countryside.
The Syrian regime has since been resuscitated by infusions of men and materiel from Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia and from the formalization of pro-regime militias under the National Defense Forces.
Beginning with the al-Qusayr offensive in 2013, the regime demonstrated the capacity to overcome its manpower deficit and inability to fight simultaneously on multiple fronts. It also illustrated the regime’s strategy to defeat the opposition by isolating rebel systems from their supply lines, attacking by fire, then clearing and holding terrain.
Despite a lack of national-level command and control on the part of the rebels, the resilience of rebel systems, guerilla tactics, and effective attacks by groups such as ISIS have prevented the regime from uprooting the armed opposition from the country or even from major cities, including Damascus and Aleppo.
The regime’s growing strength and the growing extremism of the al-Qaeda affiliates has pushed the Syrian opposition to evolve, leading to a drive for unification among the internal fighting forces, independent of the political leadership-in-exile, which has failed to provide the amount of support that the fighting groups have needed.
Despite the regime’s apparent resurgence and the opposition’s enduring challenges, the Assad Regime is not winning the Syrian civil war, and it does not have the strength to win decisively in 2014.