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Inside Syria

Syria: Shifting the strategic balance

Anti-government forces seem to be getting more organised, but can they consolidate their gains?
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2013 13:55

Syria's opposition fighters have been gaining strength and becoming more organised while government forces seem to be slowly withdrawing under the pressure.

"They have achieved a lot of things but we have to wait and see if the regime is changing its priorities and leaving the periphery and going to more important places .... Are the rebels capable to shift from non-regular fighting into something conventional? Not yet, I guess. But it is a big blow for the regime."

- Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese general

Last week, opposition fighters said they took control of the al-Jarrah military air base in Aleppo province. It was the latest in a string of military air bases to be captured by anti-government fighters.

And the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the rebels have, for the first time, seized a fleet of air force planes that includes MiG fighters.
 
The capture of the airfield happened a day after fighters seized the country's largest hydro-electric dam, located in the town of Tabqa in the north of Syria.
 
The taking of the Euphrates dam follows the capture of two others in the same area. It supplies electricity to many towns, as well as to the city of Aleppo, and provides access to Lake Assad, Syria’s largest reservoir. The anti-government forces say the dam is operating normally.
 
Its seizure is being called one of the biggest strategic gains by opposition fighters since the uprising began nearly two years ago.

"I think it's big .... Until today, the biggest vulnerability has been that the rebels have not taken any major city. If they can take Aleppo, then foreign aid can begin to get in..."

- Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies

But on the political front, the Syrian National Coalition says it will not accept President Bashar al-Assad's involvement in any peace talks.

The group issued negotiation guidelines after meeting in Cairo. Its members had discussed a proposal by their leader, Moaz al-Khatib, who said he would be willing to talk to the government. But coalition members insisted they would negotiate only with people in the regime who have not been involved in the violence.

Joining Inside Syria, with presenter Hazem Sika, are guests: Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies and an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma; Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese general; and Khaled Saleh, the head of the Media Committee for the Syrian National Coalition.

"We used to have hope for support from the international community and recognition of the national coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. And we were also hoping for some aid for the revolutionaries inside Syria, in addition to this recognition. But none of this has happened, and even if it has, it was very limited. This affects the coalition in general, but the revolutionaries inside Syria are not widely expecting or depending on foreign support or a foreign solution. They only depend on themselves and their own forces to confront the regime. And we depend mainly on the revolutionaries inside Syria. They are achieving some progress along the line of getting rid of this regime."

- Niza Haraki, the newly appointed ambassador to Qatar for the Syrian opposition

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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