Syria: Does Fall of Homs Mean Assad is Winning?


A 5-minute explanation of why the final departure of insurgents from Homs is not a sign of “victory” for the Assad regime in Syria’s conflict:

Homs was lost to Assad’s forces more than two years ago. It was only a matter of time before the final insurgents would have to leave or die of starvation as well as in the air attacks, yet even in that desperate position, the Syrian forces — after months of effort — could not take those districts with a final ground assault.

This will be a symbolic victory for the regime, but it will be presented in almost complete isolation from what is happening elsewhere at the same time in Syria. Consider the southwest, where insurgents control a large area of territory. Consider in the northwest, where insurgents continue to make advances in Idlib Province and — importantly — where they consider to press regime forces in Aleppo. Consider that insurgents hold, and will continue to hold, most of northern and eastern Syria. And consider that insurgents, despite sustained regime efforts, have pushed back the Syrian military’s efforts to take territory near Damascus.

All of this does not add up to a counter-narrative that the insurgents are winning. It merely reinforces that this is a “patchwork war”.

The media will move on from Homs. The question is whether they will notice the rest of the country.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.


  1. Yes, it does. Assad also won the decisive and drawn-out Battle of the Qalamoun, and it is now only a matter of time before the rebels are pushed back completely from their positions near Damascus.

      • The U.S Civil war cost 600,000 lives but the Union was preserved in the end. Without Assad, Syria will be plunged into anarchy and will become a failed state with warlords and armed gangs controlling parts of the country. So it i vital Assad prevails.

        • the same argument was presented in Libya, that without him it will failed state BLAH BLAH, and while there are some local skirmishes it’s a stable state , it’s less violence then in other more established states such as Pakistan , India, Burma etc

          this ASSad supporters don’t realize ASSad doesn’t CARE about them, as shown recently , he is wiling to negociate for captured Iranians or Hezzbolah while Alawites are left at the mercy of rebels and worthless to him

          if he will fall, he has billions to flee in a luxury exile while his supporters will face the wrath of the syrian population

          BTW why doesn’t ASSad reward his loyalists with at least a PORSCHE for all their sacrifices they do for him ?

          • Hezbollah’s entry into the fight has proved to be decisive. They are simply the world’s most effective guerrilla force who defeated Israel in 2000 and 2006. Iran’s training and equipping of the National Defense Force has also helped turned the tide for Assad.

        • With Assad, Syria has been plunged into anarchy and has become a failed state with warlords and armed gangs controlling parts of the country. Assad is merely the best armed warlord. Even if he prevails, how is he going to govern? We’ve seen his capabilities as leader already: they’ve led directly to where Syria is now.

          On the other hand, maybe the Iranians and Russians will send people to govern for him, much as they’ve sent people to fight for him.

          • Without Saudi, Qatari and Turkish support for radical jihadists Syria would not be in the state it is now. I suspect most Syrians regret that this “revolution” ever took place given the death and destruction that has ensued. The rebels have done nothing for Syria.

            • Had Assad negotiated with Syrians protesting his misrule instead of shooting them, imprisoning them and torturing them, Syria wouldn’t be in the state it is in now. Assad has done plenty for Syria. Hopefully he’ll eventually stop, and Syria will get a chance to develop institutions based on the rule of law, rather than on a second rate personality cult sustained by arbitrary violence.

    • this is oversimplified, he does not ‘control’ Qalamoun as his routes are still vulnerable to guerrilla attacks. just 2 weeks ago for example, rebels attacked Dumair airbase, overran tank base 559, stole 35 tanks, repelled a counter attack on the base and inflicted high casualties etc. major guerrilla warfare damage. Soon you will find out, that like any unpopular occupation force regime might have the firepower to take a town but not the manpower to consolidate. Same goes for Homs city, you are wrong to assume regime forces would leave the city of Homs as there are thousands of determined rebels in the province countryside and therefore regime still needs the manpower to protect/consolidate. That the regime allows 2000 ‘terrorists’ to leave the city on its buses and under its protection is an indication of the severe manpower problem regime has. Regime simply does not have the manpower to sustain an occupation and is slowly but surely becoming just a powerful militia in this conflict: the only borders the regime has is Lebanon and the sea, how is that a victory? even hizbala is not designed to be an occupation force, Israel too occupied S. lebanon for 25 years and had to withdrawl to guerrilla war of 17 years. At the end of the day Hizb does not have the stomach for a long term attrition occupation against a determined insurgency: hizb acheivements so far are close to home base and did not come at a low price either. As for ‘near Damascus’ regime has so far failed miserably in its attacks in ghouta and Meli7a offensives as well as Latakia and & 7ama (morek). Regime also lost ground in Daraa, Idlib and Queintra. I suspect that regime will eventually leave the north to protect Dam-Homs-Latakia. Neither the rebels nor the regime will win with major punch here, it will be a long war of attrition and will be settled by demographics: each party would be strong in its own backyard.

  2. As of valuable territory and urban centeres, yes he is definitely winning. Qalamoun and Homs have been two big achievements. Now with Homs free all those troops before engaged in the city will be diverted elsewhere, thats the real problem for the rebels other than the symbolic loss of Homs itself. Rebels still capable of local successes but other than that unfortunately they seem unable to turn the tide.

    • and as the French and USA found out in Vietnam, you can’t win a war by controlling just the urban cities , you need the countryside too and without having many fools willing to die for BAshar that won’t happen

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