At the gates of Syria’s Qardaha

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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Attacking Qardaha, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s native city and the most fortified regime stronghold represents the utmost challenge to the regime. It was a huge surprise when we saw rebels fighting in towns in the vicinity of Qardaha. These battles made the regime panic and raised the opposition’s morale.

Is targeting Qardaha a military propaganda act that aims to raise the rebels’ morale after areas they previously controlled, like Qusayr and suburbs in Damascus and Daraa, fell to the regime? Or is it part of a strategy that aims to seize the coast and thus besiege the regime after the Free Syrian Army seized almost all land border crossings last year?

If the operation is in fact a media propaganda act, then it has certainly achieved its aim. It has made the opposition forget the military and political losses it suffered during the past few months, and it has terrorized the regime followers. The rebels proved that they are not in a state of regression and that they are outperforming Iraq, Iran and Hezbollah’s militias who joined the fighting alongside Assad’s troops at the beginning of this year. The attack on Qardaha also raised the morale of millions of Syrians who were terrified by the previous setback and who are worried by the upcoming Geneva conference on which Assad imposed his conditions using the excuse that he is the winner on the military level.

Raising morale, but real progress needed

The only problem is that propaganda operations’ effects will not last for long unless the revolution’s leadership can succeed in achieving real progress on fronts which are more important than Qardaha. Damascus, Aleppo and Homs are decisive fronts that represent Syrian weight. Seizing one of these cities means threatening the regime’s existence since this could be the starting point of besieging the regime and toppling it.

The only problem is that propaganda operations’ effects will not last for long unless the revolution’s leadership can succeed in achieving real progress on fronts which are more important than Qardaha.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Targeting Qardaha and neighboring towns served the Syrian cause on the local level but this may not last for long due to Assad’s forces’ and followers’ predominance there. The operation may also backfire because of the extremist groups who serve the Syrian regime, whether intentionally or not, when they do not respect the ethics of war and become driven by sectarian grudges or personal vendettas. The acts of these hideous groups are what weakened the revolution in its recent months and horrified the world of the latter. These acts even terrified the Syrians themselves because most of them do not want to get rid of a brutal regime to replace it with another monster.

Although most of us are focused on the dangerous events in Egypt, the situation in Syria is better than some people think. The Syrian rebels have achieved a number of important victories in the past few weeks. These victories, however, did not receive the same media attention as Qardaha. They seized Khan al-Aasal and a number of important military sites in Daraa. They also seized the military airport of Mingh after months of fighting and downed two jets. They also seized huge amounts of weapons, ammunition and rockets in Qalmoun and carried out successful operations in Damascus and its suburbs. All events on the ground suggest that the regime is still incapable of halting the rebels despite the massive support it has received from its allies. All we hope from military and political leaderships is that they overcome disputes over posts and council successions.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on August 12, 2013.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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