By William Tucker
Reports from the New York Times and the BBC have stated that the Syrian military has surrounded the western city of Al Rastan. Both reports state that the military has begun shelling various portions of the city striking residential areas, a mosque and the city’s main bakery. Residents that have managed to speak to the press in the midst of a media blackout have stated that all communication lines have been severed. These people claim to have escaped the city just before the military established its cordon. What’s more, these witnesses stated that the military has been unable to take the city despite beginning the siege last Thursday.
If these reports are to be taken at face value, and it is difficult to corroborate these claims, then it is likely that the military is trying to starve the city into submission rather than take it in a rapid assault. The eyewitnesses may have been alluding to the incompetence of the Syrian military, but the methods described actually indicate that the military is operating in a disciplined fashion – if one can describe the killing of unarmed civilians as such. This has a profound impact on the rest of the country for several reasons, but most importantly it shows that President al-Assad’s Alawite minority is still very much in control of the Syrian military. As long as the Alawite’s maintain their grip on the military and refrain from fracturing, the regime of al-Assad will survive.
Map of Syria: CIA