The FSA (Free Syrian Army) is hoping to use increased weapons and equipment shipments from the West and the Arab Gulf States to improve recruiting and combat effectiveness. Currently there are more young men (and some women) willing to fight than FSA can arm. The Islamic terror groups have had an edge here because they have well developed recruiting and supply networks, some dating back to the 1980s (when Islamic radicals were eager to fight in Afghanistan) or the 1990s (the Balkans). In the last decade the Assad government allowed Islamic terror groups to use Syria as a base for terrorist operations in Iraq and other countries in the region. The secular rebels have had to start from scratch. But now they have good supplies of cash, weapons, and other equipment and more experience in turning civilians into effective fighters. The FSA has found the anti-tank missiles they have been receiving are not only very popular in combat (in part because of the accuracy and 4,000 meter range) but make it easier to recruit. The FSA is also trying to create more professional (better trained, organized, and led) rebel units and develop better communications and cooperation. This is possible with the secular fighters, but the Islamic radical and Kurdish groups are opposed to any kind of “unification.”
While rebel forces grow, they are also becoming less united. There are three main factions. Technically, everyone belongs to the FSA, but in reality these are only the secular, non-Kurdish rebels. While still over half the rebels, these men are not as effective in combat as the Islamic terror groups and the Kurdish militias. The Islamic terror groups are more fanatic and more effective against army and Hezbollah forces but contain a large number of foreigners. That, and their efforts to impose Islamic lifestyle rules on Syrian civilians in areas the terrorists control, has made these fanatics unpopular with a growing number of Syrians. The Islamic terrorists have also been on very bad terms with the Kurds of the northeast. The Kurds have no love for Assad but would prefer to stay out of the fight. Kurds have taken control of the northeastern areas where they are the majority, and that angers some of the Islamic terror groups who want to extend their control to Kurdish areas. The Kurds in Syria and Iraq have never been enthusiastic about Islamic radicalism and will usually oppose these fanatics with force. FSA and Islamic terror group gunmen have been more frequently seen fighting each other as well. It was always taken for granted that the secular and Islamic radical groups would have to fight after the Assad government was overthrown. That was optimistic because the post-civil war civil war is already underway.
It took about two weeks but army troops and pro-government Alawite militiamen have cleared Islamic radical fighters from areas near the coast, deep in Alawite territory. Several hundred rebel gunmen unexpectedly showed up here two weeks ago and soon had killed over 200 armed Alawites. The rebels quickly captured six villages, but within a week government forces arrived and recaptured all six. Now most of the rebels have been chased away or killed. But the damage has been done and this has been very bad for Alawite morale, as the coastal area is mostly Alawites and has seen very little rebel activity. Now the government will be forced to send hundreds (at least) of troops to the area to provide security and organize (and arm) more local militias. The rebels said they wanted to capture the home village of the Assad clan, where dynasty founder and father of Hafez Assad is buried. The rebels got to within 20 kilometers of that place. The government could not allow them to get any closer.
The Syrian Army, reinforced and encouraged by Shia (Islamic radical) volunteers from Lebanon and Iraq, has been on the offensive more frequently. Their improved morale is also the result of improvements on the home front, where billions in Iranian cash aid has enabled the government to pay troops more and on time. Government employees are also paid regularly, and this helps keep the economy going in government controlled areas. The government also maintains law and order, something that is frequently missing from rebel controlled areas or those parts of the country where most government employees have fled and no one is in charge. While most of the fighting is still low level stuff, over a thousand people a week are dying, including a growing number from accidents and disease that are side effects of military operations.
Fighting continues on the Israeli border as the Syrian Army still struggles to regain control of the area. Rebels have had control of most of the Israeli border this year but the army and their Hezbollah allies keep trying to change that. Meanwhile, Israel has quietly provided hospital care for civilians and rebels badly wounded in the fighting. The casualties are brought to a border crossing, where medical personnel are now stationed to examine the casualties to determine if their injuries are severe enough to require the level of care the Israelis can provide. Over a hundred Syrians have received care so far, all of it unofficial and unacknowledged.
Pro-Assad hackers working for Syria have become bolder and more active, making low-tech but high-visibility attacks on Western media, in addition to their usual Arab language media victims. Calling themselves the "Syrian Electronic Army" (SEA) they are the young sons of the pro-Assad elite who know enough about computers and the Internet to use simple hacking tools and, it appears, hire more proficient hackers for more complex attacks. It sure beats carrying a rifle against the rebels.
Jordan and Turkey are hosting most of the two million refugees who have fled Syria. The Turks complain but they have the resources to deal with it. Jordan does not, largely because of a much smaller (than Turkey) GDP and water supply. Jordan is also threatened by increased Islamic terrorist activity within its borders, often assisted by Islamic terror groups operating in Syria. So Jordan is asking Western and Arab nations for more help or risk having another humanitarian disaster to deal with.
August 15, 2013: The war continues to spread in Lebanon, largely because of the thousands of Hezbollah gunmen fighting for the Syrian government. Today a car bomb went off in a pro-Hezbollah neighborhood of Beirut, killing 18 Shia civilians and security personnel. A Sunni Islamic terror group took credit for the attack. Lebanese leaders are trying to blame the Sunni-Shia violence on Israel in an attempt to defuse a civil war with Hezbollah, something that has been brewing for the last decade. The Syria related fighting has also resulted in more kidnappings in Lebanon and Syria. This has led more and more professionals (especially doctors and other medical experts) to flee the country. Well educated people are assumed to have enough money for a large ransom and when the kidnappers discover (and often don’t believe) that this is not true they will often just kill their hostages.
August 11, 2013: Islamic terrorists have killed another FSA commander. One was killed last month while meeting with Islamic terror group leaders. Many Islamic terror groups have openly declared war on the FSA.
August 10, 2013: In Damascus a car rigged with a bomb exploded in a market place, wounding five people. Rebels have also been able to occasionally fire some mortar shells into pro-government neighborhoods or have snipers fire off a few rounds. Assad supporters in Damascus are having a harder time ignoring the war.
August 7, 2013: An Israeli patrol apparently wandered across the border into a Lebanese minefield. A mine went off and four Israeli soldiers were wounded. Lebanese officials said the Israelis were 400 meters inside Lebanon and Hezbollah took responsibility for the explosion saying they knew the Israelis were coming and planted two bombs. The Israeli military refused to provide any more details except to say their troops were on the border, not across it.