Understanding Syria

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said that in a guerrilla war the rebels only had to not lose to win; however, unless a regular army was clearly winning, it was losing. The Syrian crisis has, for the time being, turned that maxim on its head.

When the uprising began, the West and its allies in the Gulf expected it to last weeks or maybe months – but not years.

Now, by hanging on this long, the regime in Damascus increasingly thinks that by not losing it is winning.

That new confidence – along with what is believed to be a steady supply of arms from its supporters in Iran and Russia – is helping the regime to take back some areas which it had previously lost.

In the capital Damascus, you can hear the sound of mortar fire as the regime slowly pushes fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) out of the parts of the city that it took the rebels months to get hold of.

The situation in Syria is complicated. If you are not confused by what is going on there, then you do not understand it.

Since the start of the conflict, the sectarian fault lines dividing the Sunni-led opposition from the regime, which hails from the Alawite minority, a Shiite offshoot, have made the civil war an attractive target for regional intervention.

Sunni Arab states in the Gulf have openly backed rebel forces, while Shiite Iran and its partner Hezbollah have rallied to Assad’s side.

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