A More Aggressive Assad?

With the capture of the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Jobar, Zamalka, Ain Terma, and Harasta (with Douma soon to follow), the rebel threat to Damascus is now over.

Although the rebel stronghold had been besieged for five years, the removal of over twenty thousand militants from the doorstep of the capital is sure to comfort the Syrian Army’s high commanders as well as the political leadership.

Now that ten thousand seasoned soldiers have been freed from Ghouta to fight elsewhere, Bashar al-Assad will feel emboldened and he is sure to order these troops to fight on another front. The leading candidate is Quneitra, as the Syrian Army high command wishes to ease the flow of supplies from Israel to the rebels in Daraa governorate. Hezbollah (and Iran) are also sure to approve of this action, as they wish to improve their footing in the Golan Heights.

Israel will likely intervene again on this front as they have in the past, although even daily airstrikes will only slow down the government’s advance, not stop it. In this battle, Israel will have the benefit of using its own airspace to launch strikes instead of having to fly over Syrian airspace (which would expose them to SAMs and AA fire).

In a broader sense, the victory at East Ghouta will make the Syrian leadership more comfortable with launching new offensives and making moves it would not have made a year ago. With ten thousand new troops, Assad could be more aggressive from now on. It is possible he will choose to attack Daraa city or the Rastan pocket. The next few weeks will tell us what happens.

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