Inside Syria

Who supports who in Syria?

We look at how support for the regime and the rebels has ebbed and flowed and how it is impacting the battle for Syria.

The second anniversary of the Syrian uprising is less than two months away, and there is still no end to the fighting in sight. With hundreds of people killed in Syria every day, opposition rebels want better weapons.

The opposition has not received enough support, definitely not to the level that the Syrian regime is receiving from its friends, so we hope that we see more forthcoming, particularly in terms of high quality weapons – meaning weapons that can deter aircrafts and destroy tanks. Unless we change the balance on the ground the regime is not going to budge.

– Louay Safi, from the Syrian National Coalition

There are reports the Syrian army has brought reinforcements in to central parts of the country and it has also launched an offensive to retake territory rebels have held for months.

But despite significant advances by the rebels this week, the opposition is still outgunned by the Syrian army. The result is a deadlock.

The opposition is concerned that it does not have enough international support. Some members of the Syrian Opposition Coalition say promises to supply aid are not being kept. 

This week, a senior member of the Saudi royal family expressed alarm at the progress of what he called extremist elements in the Syrian opposition.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, a brother of the current Saudi foreign minister, called for efforts to step up arms support for moderate Syrian rebel groups.

A game changer will be political I think – it’s not at the military level. When the political level is really finding a solution it goes directly to the military. At this particular time in the Syrian crisis we have what we call ‘strategic paralysis’ – nobody is going to interfere in Syria overtly – everybody is working by proxy… 

– Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese army general

He told the World Economic Forum in Davos: “Sixty-thousand people have been killed already. Do we have to wait for double or triple that number to die before Assad leaves? What is needed are sophisticated, high-level weapons that can bring down planes, can take out tanks at a distance. This is not getting through. You have to level the playing field.”

Most of the weapons the rebels have come from captured Syrian stocks and defectors bringing their weapons.

For its part, Russia this week reiterated its position regarding the fate of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president. Sergei Lavrov, Moscow’s foreign minister, said: “The Syrian opposition is obsessed with the idea of eliminating Bashar al-Assad’s regime. While they preserve this irreconcilable position nothing good will happen.”

Inside Syria, with presenter Hazem Sika, is joined by guests: Kamran Bokhari, the vice president for Middle Eastern and South Asian affairs at Stratfor; Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese army general; and Louay Safi, a member of the Syrian National Coalition.

“Even if we take out the al-Qaeda trans-national jihadist factor, the sheer issue is: Do you want to create another Libya-like situation in the heart of the Middle East? Syria, as Elias is saying, is on fault lines – there are sectarian fault lines, ideological fault lines – Syria is centered on the border between the Iranian-led sphere of influence and the Sunni Arab world so this is a place where stakes are high and there is no effective replacement.”

Kamran Bokhari, vice president for Middle Eastern and South Asian affairs at Stratfor