This is the second part of an article on the possible outcomes of the peace negotiations on Syria planned to start in January. The first part can be found at this link and argues that none of the forces that will be involved in the peace talks will press for democracy and an end to the religious sectarianism on both sides. This part looks at the forces behind Assad and how they will continue in a Syria that is either divided through partition or remains at war.
The final part on the nature of the oppositional force to Assad will be posted within the next couple of days
After the weekends events (Jan 1st-3rd) in Saudi Arabia, the peace talks look increasingly unlikely to take place never mind yield any results. But Syria is already effectively partitioned – so much of the speculation in this posting is equally relevant if the peace talks break down.
What will happen to the remains of the Syrian government dominated areas?
Assad’s military resources – the Syrian Arab Army was reported to have been between 220-280,000 strong at the outbreak of the civil war. The Syrian Army, along with the other military forces with whom they have been allied, have been responsible for the vast majority of the over 250,000 civilian deaths.
On their side they are thought to have lost over 50,000 troops. However huge numbers have also defected or deserted. Something like 40-50,000 have defected to the Free Syrian Army, primarily Sunni Muslims refusing to take part in attacks on civilian Sunni communities.
The current strength of the army was estimated to have halved by April 2015 to about 110,000. By July of that year Assad was acknowledging for the first time that his forces could no longer retake all of Syria. This admission led to increased military support from both Iran and Russia.
In an attempt to stiffen the armies resolve, Iranian and Hezbollah forces have increasingly carried out operations alongside them and are often put in charge of them. But even now with Russia air support, the regimes overall military successes have been minimal.