Russian bombing has not stop Syrian rebels from advancing on Assad's homeland

Daily Beast:
Three weeks of Russian aerial bombardment in Syria hasn't exactly helped the Bashar al-Assad regime in its push north of Damascus. Social media has for the last three weeks been awash with images of burning Syrian Arab Army tanks, all wrecked by a tactically powerful anti-tank missile, the BGM-71 TOW, supplied (via Saudi Arabia) by the United States to certain CIA-backed anti-Assad militias.

Yesterday, two large rebel umbrella groups—Jaysh al-Fateh (Army of Conquest), a large consortium of Islamists which includes the official Syrian al-Qaeda franchise, and the Free Syrian Army, an admittedly catchall category but one that includes 39 CIA-vetted TOW recipients—announced a major counteroffensive.

The push is taking place in northern Hama and the eastern hills of Latakia. This coastal province is the Assad family’s homeland—and the area where Russia has constructed a forward operation base and headquarters for its Syrian adventure. Far from being pushed out, the rebels are actually pushing in on Moscow’s military fief in the Levant. ISIS, which Russia disingenuously claims to be focusing its fire and steel on, has also gobbled up geography in Aleppo.

Reports emerged earlier this week that rebel shelling may have even killed three Russian servicemen in Latakia, an allegation denied by the Kremlin, which insists it hasn’t any ground troops in Syria. But given the plausibility of the claim, and its provenance in pro-Assad state media, rumors of “Cargo 200”—the Russian military code for combat fatalities—only underscore the so-far lackluster performance of Vladimir Putin’s coalition.

Pro-Assad forces in the battle for Hama include the Syrian Arab Army, Lebanese Hezbollah, the Iran-built National Defense Force militia, and advisors from both the Russian military and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Yet against that multinational array, the FSA has managed to hold its ground because its campaign is clearly being coordinated and encouraged by Western and regional intelligence services, which have displayed a newfound willingness to allow more defensive weaponry to their proxies.

As Charles Lister, an analyst of Syria’s multifarious insurgency at the Brookings Institution, calculated, the use of the TOW missile has increased a staggering 850% since the Russians started bombing, a metric that bolstered by press accounts featuring rebels attest to sudden bonanza of the tank-killer. Also reappearing on the battlefield is the RBG-6 multiple grenade launcher, a munition purchased by the Saudis from Croatia and imported into southern Syria via Jordan in 2013. (That supply line was abandoned after the launcher was found in the hands of jihadists not long after its import.)
There is more.

This is a tactically smart move.  It presents a dilemma to the Syrian forces and their allies.  Will they destroy the President's homeland they way they destroyed Aleppo to attack the rebels.  It would make any victory a Pyrrhic one.  The rebels are showing a surprising ability to not only survive the air attacks but to advance their positions.


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