Analysis: the Fall of Safira

5 Nov

[A guest post written by a Libyan tha'er. The full Arabic-language resignation statement above can be found here.]

The Military Council/Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander in Aleppo and the commander of operations in Safira both resigned (the latter saw this coming and was warning of it for weeks).

There are multiple causes for the fall of Safira.

The major one is the regime’s determination and allocation of large numbers of troops and gear. For 30 days straight, the city experienced unprecedented carpet bombing (mainly “barrel” bombing from the air and artillery shelling from the ground). Two weeks ago, I watched an interview with the commander in Safira who said that there was no 20-square meter block in the city that was not shelled and that they would not be able to hold their ground for long (they barely made it out). All residents of the city had fled for their lives just days after the start of the massive bombing campaign. The city is now in ruins and anyone staying there would not have survived the shelling. The second main reason is the fragmentation of the rebel brigades. The regime and its Lebanese and Iraqi militias are all working under one command (an Iranian command actually and there was a long video released of the Iranian operation room in Aleppo not long ago) and they were able to put forth a quick, brute-force offensive and basically destroy the city before taking it. The rebel brigades, however, were busy fighting the Kurdish PKK in the north and within the city of Aleppo (trying to liberate the central prison) and left Safira with no defenses. After several cries of help from the Safira commander, several groups sent in small reinforcements who came in for brief periods of time and left. There was barely any rebel presence when the regime hit. The few rebels who stayed were locals and from Jabhat Al-Nusra but they were very lightly-armed (all they had were AK-47s and a few rocket-propelled grenades and were fighting on foot). Even these few were working on their own with absolutely no coordination. So the lack of unified command plus the lack of heavy weaponry plus engagement elsewhere were the reason why the rebels could not hold their ground.

al-Aqidi

Happier days: Colonel Abdul-Jabbar al-Aqidi, commander of the Military Council in Aleppo, poses with members of Ghurabaa al-Sham brigade in the Al-Sakhour neighborhood of Aleppo, June 21, 2013. REUTERS/Muzaffar Salman.

The Aleppo FSA commander resigned in protest against the Supreme Military Council’s failure to make good on its promise of providing heavy equipment (out of fear that it might fall into the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS) just as they did in Lattakia where the rebels simply ran out of ammunition. This was certainly a blunder for the rebels and they are realizing it now. They are trying hard to set up an operations room and mount a counter-offensive. The Islamic brigades are now massing in nearby towns and have stopped the regime advance toward the North. In my opinion, this round in Safira was not the rebels’ battle, as it was a conventional army offensive and holding their ground would have been too costly (especially since the city was destroyed and vacant already).

What they need to do now is what they did the first time to capture the city: take out regime posts using vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and capture one part of the city at a time. The regime is trying to move quickly toward the city of Aleppo and break the siege because the resources it has allocated for this battle are needed elsewhere and if it takes too long it will be forced to withdraw from the area again to reinforce other more important regions (mainly Damascus and Homs).

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6 Responses to “Analysis: the Fall of Safira”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Revolutionary War 2013 Round Up: The End of the Beginning | Democratic Revolution, Syrian Style - December 31, 2013

    […] military victories in Qusayr (June) and Sfira (October/November) bolstered the anti-revolutionary narrative promoted by Western and Eastern media […]

  2. The End of the Beginning in #Syria 2013 Round Up h | YALLA SOURIYA - January 1, 2014

    […] military victories in Qusayr (June) and Sfira (October/November) bolstered the anti-revolutionary narrative promoted by Western and Eastern media […]

  3. Islamists, Salafists, and Jihadists: Friends or Foes of the Revolution? | Democratic Revolution, Syrian Style - January 7, 2014

    […] weaken the front lines and therefore strengthen the regime. Regime military victories in Qusayr and Sfira made fighting on two fronts inadvisable throughout most of […]

  4. Courting Disaster: The Campaign to Topple Ahmad Jarba | Democratic Revolution, Syrian Style - April 28, 2014

    […] angry denials, damaging splits, fruitless boycotts, useless withdrawals, and frustration-driven resignations have reigned supreme in opposition organizations for nearly three years, from the bottom at the […]

  5. تحرير سوري | Courting disaster: The campaign to topple Ahmad Jarba - May 1, 2014

    […] angry denials, damaging splits, fruitless boycotts, useless withdrawals, and frustration-driven resignations have reigned supreme in opposition organizations for nearly three years, from the bottom at the […]

  6. Contradictions of the Post-Revolution Assad Regime in Syria’s Protracted Anti-Fascist War | Democratic Revolution, Syrian Style - August 1, 2014

    […] string of strategic military victories — in summer of 2013 at Qusayr, in fall of 2013 at Safira, in March 2014 at Yabroud, and in April 2014 at Qalamoun. However, military momentum alone cannot […]

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