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MENAFN - Arab News - 30/09/2012

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(MENAFN - Arab News) HISTORICALLY, all the empires of the world fought for the conquest of Halab, one of the oldest cities in the history of mankind at an estimated 10,000 years old. The last was the Ottoman empire, which made Halab its third capital after Astana and Cairo.

The world has changed, and Syria has changed since the division of the Sykes-Picot plan. All the more reason I fail to comprehend why the feuding parties in Syria - the Assad regime and the rebels - focus their fight over Halab. Why not the cities of Hama or Homs, which received a greater share of barbaric attacks by the regime's forces, or Daraa, dangerously situated at close proximity to the capital?

In contrast, I realized why the rebels do not target the capital, Damascus, which, if toppled, would spell the fall of the regime for the obvious reason: It is heavily fortified with artillery and Assad would fight them until the last standing child and woman.

Thus it is clear that rebel tactics for Damascus are different from other cities. These include the adoption of multiple, simultaneous and sudden operations because the regime cannot do anything against surprising gorilla attacks. The rebels also avoid fighting in neighborhoods and streets, as they had previously fought in the Al-Midan district and the regime immediately utilized its helicopters to demolish the neighborhood's houses over the heads of their inhabitants.

As for Halab, fighting takes place in this dated town almost daily since its townships and countryside are conjoined. However, the regime has not been defeated yet and the rebels have not tired, hence war ensues. Nevertheless, the balance tends to be in favor of the rebels who say they are about to free the country of military rule. It is clear that the resilience of the regime after Halab's near fall in August is due to huge military support by Russia and Iran. A leaked document alleges that the Syrian leadership was ready to face an uprising in Halab before it had occurred. The document also says that a few hundred Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas were assigned to camp there three months before the revolution reached the city. The regime had tried to pre-empt attacks and nip any attempt in the bud but ultimately failed.

Here I borrow the analysis of the researcher and political analyst Sami Mubayed, who wrote explaining the importance of the struggle for Halab, that members of the Free Syrian Army believe that their liberation of Halab means the fall of the rest of the cities and towns like domino pieces, and its fall will trap the regime in Damascus as well as the costal cities of Latakia and Tartous.

He says, "What surfaces is a clear case from history. For instance, President Adib Al-Shishakli, who faced a popular revolt backed by a military uprising in 1953, had initially tried to suppress it by force, but cities gradually began to slip out from under his rule. When Halab fell, it led to the quick disintegration of the regime from the inside, followed by the Druze constituency, Homs, and Latakia. This ultimately lead to Al-Shishakli's power being diluted and limited his base to Hama and the capital Damascus."

Certainly the fall of Halab, which the rebels have named the "decisive battle," would mean the fall of the largest city in Syria and the closest geographically to Turkey, and might galvanize the Turks after a long anxious wait.
I think the freeing of Halab has become possible after the bloody battles that have ensued, the bravery of the rebels and the patience of the people of this wounded city. The regime may not fall immediately by its fall, but Halab, being the largest city, will force the Russians and the Iranians to finally abandon the butcher of Syria, Bashar Assad.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashid


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