British Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday that he would veto the renewal of a European Union ban on weapons exports to Syria, and hinted that Britain might go it alone in supplying rebels with arms. The Syrian opposition wants the ban lifted, arguing that the rebels would benefit more than the regime (which is already being supplied with arms by Russia and Iran). Cameron appears worried about the rise of the Jabhat al-Nusra radical group in north Syria. Britain has a large Muslim population, some elements of which have radical tendencies, which might affect Cameron’s calculations. He likely wants to train and arm Syrians with views more acceptable to the British mainstream.
The call by the mufti or chief Muslim legal authority in Syria for more young men to join up to defend the regime suggested to many observers that the Baath government of Bashar al-Assad is having difficulty recruiting enough troops to fight off the rebels in the north and even in the environs of the capital.
Of the some 220,000 Syrian troops before the civil war broke out, 14,000 have probably died in the fighting, 140,000 are considered unreliable by the regime and have been benched, with some portion of those defecting or just staying home, and only the remaining 65,000 or so still committed to the fighting. I am distilling from AP’s report on the analysis of Joseph Holliday. It is enough to keep the regime from falling quickly, but not enough to stop swathes of the country from gradually going into the hands of the rebels. They now have al-Raqqah province in the north, and can move freely throughout Idlib.
Roughly 1,200 Syrian troops are killed every month and 4,800 more are wounded. If the wounded were all put out of commission (they aren’t), that rate of attrition would predict that the regime will fall within a year unless it can scare up a lot more troops.
Fighting continued to rage in the Syrian city of Homs on Tuesday On Sunday, rebels infiltrated back into the Baba Amr neighborhood, which supports them. Since then the regime has been attempting to dislodge them again, using artillery and aerial bombing. It was the regime’s willingness to deploy heavy weapons in the civilian neighborhood of Baba Amr last year they brought home to the world how brutal the Syrian Baath really is.
Homs is a key city on the route between the Mediterranean port of Latakia and the capital, Damascus. Were it to fall, it would be easier for the rebels to besiege the capital and starve out the regime.
Amateur footage of the bombardment was posted to Youtube but cannot be independently verified.
The regime seems to have more and more trouble asserting itself in key parts of the north of the country.
It was unable, for example, to stop rebels from taking the Shaikh Said district of Aleppo earlier this week, which allows them to cut off the city from the airport the regime uses to resupply its loyalists. Aljazeera English reports: