Is Aleppo Safe? Syria’s Assad Admits War Is Taking Toll on Government Forces

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaks in Damascus in this handout released by Syria's national news agency on Sunday. PHOTO: REUTERS
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaks in Damascus in this handout released by Syria’s national news agency on Sunday. PHOTO: REUTERS

Will the Syrian government fight to clear Aleppo from terrorist groups or will be focusing to defend areas which are more strategic for the System? A big concern for the Armenians living around the globe, as most of the Armenians who survived the Armenian Genocide either settled in Aleppo or have relatives and friends in the city.

 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said his regime’s recent battlefield setbacks were caused both by a shortage of manpower and the need to defend areas deemed more strategic and vital than others, in a rare public admission Sunday.

The speech appeared more than anything else an effort by Mr. Assad to boost the morale of his supporters and warn certain communities in regime-controlled areas about the perils of not contributing more to the regime’s defense.

“The army’s strength comes from its manpower and if we want the army to give its best then we must give the most of what we have,” said Mr. Assad at a gathering of trade and professional unions in Damascus, according to a transcript released by Syrian state media.

“If we want the army to operate at maximum strength then we must provide for all its manpower needs, everything else is available but there is a shortage in manpower because of the reason I mentioned.”

Mr. Assad said the shortage in manpower was largely due to desertions and defections, and that many people were evading calls for reservists and mandatory military service.

Syria’s armed forces have been hollowed out by a conflict that killed close to a quarter of a million people, displaced millions and fractured the country.

Earlier this year, the government lost control of Idlib, a provincial capital in northwest Syria, to rebel forces. And in May, militant group Islamic State captured the ancient city of Palmyra after government troops fled.

What remains of the army has been buttressed by tens of thousands of security force members and militias both local and foreign. Iran and its main regional proxy the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah have been key in coordinating and managing this effort.

The regime and its allies are currently focused on shoring up the defenses of Damascus and preserving a vital corridor that runs along the Lebanese border and via the central city of Homs to the country’s western region on the Mediterranean coast.

This reality was echoed by Mr. Assad in his speech.

“We must specify key areas that the armed forces must hold on to prevent the collapse of other regions,” he said. “And the priority is based on a number of criteria including military, political, economic and service.”

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