A lifetime opportunity arose in Syria for the anti-Assad forces. They concluded that because Bashar al-Assad’s main supporter, Vladimir Putin, is preoccupied with his own agenda in Ukraine, they would be able to easily resist Assad’s rule. But this impractical dream unfortunately cannot turn into a reality.
We will substantiate on the reasons for this not turning into reality. But before that let us throw light on Syria’s present political situation at present.
Sphere of influence
Nonetheless, from the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2011, a number of foreign countries, including Iran, Russia, Turkey, and the US, have either directly intervened in the fight or offered support to one or more factions. The Syrian civil war is fought by a variety of foreign and domestic factions.
These are classified into four categories. First, the Syrian Armed Forces, which are backed by Russia and its allies and are led by Bashar al-Assad. Second, the Syrian National Army, the Free Syrian Army, and the jihadist Tahrir al-Sham make up the opposition. Finally, the Syrian Democratic Forces, which are controlled by Kurds. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is the fourth. Foreign countries have provided military and political support to the Syrian government, opposition, and SDF, resulting to the conflict being referred to as a proxy war.
Assad faces a weak opposition in Syria
These opposition groups have been looking for a way to destabilise Syria’s Assad administration. These opposition forces have found it difficult to succeed since Assad is backed by Russia. However, now that Putin is preoccupied with Ukraine, these forces could have seized the chance, but they appear to be failing for the following reasons.
1. Division among the rebels: Almost a decade ago, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) was gaining power and numbers, as well as support from a large portion of the international community. Now, the revolutionary movements have fragmented into a variety of factions and movements — some Islamist, some nationalist and secularist, some backed by the US or Turkiye, and others ethnocentric, such as the Kurdish militias.
2. International interest is lost in Syria: The world is no longer fascinated with or focused on Syria’s conflict, and it has essentially abandoned the country, with little foreign support for a renewed resistance push.
3. Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a former al-Qaeda affiliate which has broken off links with the movement: Former al-Qaeda offshoot Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has severed ties with the movement. HTS has dominated the province of Idlib and its power politics for the past few years, functioning as the armed forces and the ‘Salvation Government’ as a civilian front. It is having years of fighting experience against Syrian regime forces in southern Idlib, the Jabal Zawiya mountain range, and the surrounding areas. It also has the ability to launch successful attacks against government positions is bolstered by its possession of long-range heavy weaponry.
Despite its alleged military capabilities, HTS has been and continues to be preoccupied with suppressing other factions in northwestern Syria, leaving many to doubt if it would even consider attacking Syrian forces.
4. The Syrian National Army (SNA) has almost dropped its motives in Syria: The SNA, a descendant of the FSA, which rules other regions of northwestern and northern Syria and is backed by Turkey, appears to have abandoned any plans to renew attacks against Assad regime forces. It is instead focused its resources on preparing to join Turkey in its own planned campaign against Kurdish groups in northern and northeastern Syria.
Even if Putin is unable to focus his efforts on Syria due to the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the foregoing factors plainly show that there are bleak chances of Syrian regime facing any resistance sooner or later.