Jeff White’s Analysis of the Syrian Civil War

"The war could indeed have a military outcome, and in light of current trends, that outcome could be a regime victory. The outlines of a regime strategy for winning the war are visible. This strategy hinges on the staying power of the regime and its allies, the generation of adequate forces, operational success, and continued divisions within rebel forces. It is subject to serious constraints, especially limitations on the size and effectiveness of regime and associated forces, and "game changers" could alter its course. But a regime victory is possible — and that is what the regime is counting on."  White


I inadvertently posted this yesterday in an uncompleted form.  Sorry.  White's analysis is sound although it must be said that he has been slow to come to the conclusion that Syrian government victory is likely.  For the past couple of years, he, Tabler and Holliday at the Kagan think tank have insisted that the rebels would win.  Such a victory for the Islamist dominated rebellion was never probable. This change of heart is a refreshingly rational approach to understanding the situation.  White's insistence that the Syrian government has been the culprit in the matter of CW use is merely an unsupported assertion.  pl

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13 Responses to Jeff White’s Analysis of the Syrian Civil War

  1. FB Ali says:

    This is an excellent analysis of the evolving situation in Syria.
    There is the possibility of another significant development favouring the regime: the cutoff or reduction of supplies and reinforcements to the rebels through Turkey. It is feasible that the present level of support they are receiving may not be due to the policy of the Turkish government but that of the Gulen movement, implemented through its supporters in the police and security services. If that is the case, then the current rift between Erdogan and Gulen may result in such a development.

  2. confusedponderer says:

    What I wonder about is that White in that report also takes Assad’s use of CW as a given.
    “This principle, in effect since the beginning of the armed uprising, accounts for the regime’s steady escalation in weapons used, including chemical weapons, and in attacks on the civilian population.

    the regime’s decision to eliminate its chemical weapons stockpiles has effectively capped its escalation of force.”
    Best I understood there has always lingered doubt over the question whether it was Assad at all who used CW in Syria.
    Does White address the Assad’s CW as a theoretical possibility or does he take it as a given that Assad did use CW?

  3. Bandolero says:

    It is seldom that I ever agree with one word of a WINEP author, but here it is: I, too, think, that military force resulting in a government win will be the outcome to the conflict. However, other as Mr White put it’s PR effort, I think a victory of the Syrian Arab Army will be embraced by all P5 UNSC members quite soon.
    The reason for this will be that there won’t be a diplomatic solution with Al Qaeda & friends in Syria, they need to be defeated militarily and the Syrian Arab Army is the only force in the world that can do this.
    My prediction is that there will be soon – sometime in spring next year or even sooner – a UNSC resolution tasking the Syrian Arab Army with defeating Al Qaeda in Syria and threatening anyone who tries to prevent the Syrian army from accomplishing that with sanctions and terrorist listings. The same guys which were angry with the Syrian CW deal and the Iranian nuclear deal will be very angry again when the Syrian Arab Army is tasked with defeating Al Qaeda in Syria, but these guys will fail again to prevent such an outcome. After an UNSC resolution capping foreign support for Al Qaeda in Syria the army will be defeat Al Qaeda quite quickly.
    So far my prediction of the “military solution” which is now unfolding. I heard already rumors that the invitations to the coming conference in Montreux/Geneva will carry wording that a main focus of the conference will be efforts of “counter-terrorism” in Syria and SNC guys in London heard from their western backers that Assad cannot go because he is needed to prevent chaos unfolding in Syria.
    The sugarcoat for the US and FSA around such a sound Syrian victory will be likely that Assad won’t run for a third term. My personal guess: Instead of Assad, the Syrian Baath Party may nominate Fahd al-Freij as presidential candidate in 2014, and Basher Al-Assad gets a job as his adviser.

  4. Poul says:

    Given the fragmentation among the rebels it will be interesting to see if the Syrian government can flip some of the smaller non-salafist rebel groups as we saw with the town of Talkalakh after the battle of Qusayr.
    What would it take to convince a rebel group to shift allegiance?

  5. Norbert M Salamon says:

    Off topic:
    Chas Freeman has an article: SNOWDEN AND SNOOPING at

  6. Matthew says:

    Bandalero: Equally significant are recent media batsqueaks about Saudi government funding/involvement in 9/11. See
    These reports began right after Saudi Arabia announced they would “go it alone” in Syria and bad-mouthed the USG for our Iran negotiations.
    The Saudis have no friends. They have employees. Let’s hope this relationship continues to deteriorate.

  7. Fred says:

    Thanks for clarifying that the assertion by Mr. White of the Syrian governments use of CW is just that, an unsubstantiated assertion. I question also his insistence that the Assad government is retaliating against civilians after retaking rebel held areas- specifically “engages in what are essentially reprisal attacks on area civilians: executions, looting, the burning of homes and businesses.”. Is there evidence to substantiate this assertion?
    Mr. White alleges that one of the constraints on the Syrian government is the need to avoid antagonizing its allies; isn’t it the need to avoid antagonizing the US – especially in regards to the Obama administrations manipulation of intelligence to justify supporting the rebels – who are now clearly dominated by the jihadi elements? That action by Obama, if it had been successful, would have been the “game changer” Mr. White calls out. It also would have been a strategic disaster for US national interests.

  8. Matthew says:

    Fred: War is peace. See
    Insert “Iran” or “Hezbollah” for Israel in this story and imagine how this type of “leak” would be reported.

  9. Fred says:

    That doesn’t address my questions. As to your link – Israel was fought to a standstill by Hezbollah last time out, has their infantry gotten any better?

  10. Bandolero says:

    FB Ali
    I wouldn’t call this paper from Jeff White/WINEP “an excellent analysis.” I would call it more like a PR effort mixed with some analysis.
    Look what Jeff White wrote regarding terrorism:
    … Using all available media, domestic and foreign, to further this narrative, the regime has increasingly succeeded in advancing perceptions of a growing terrorist threat in Syria …
    So, according to Jeff White, there is no real terrorism problem in Syria. According to White, the problem is just that Syria’s media are so dominant on the world stage that uninformed or simple minded people get fooled by this huge and successful Syrian propaganda campaign pretending that there exists a terrorist threat in Syria while in reality there is no terrorism problem in Syria.
    It’s dishonest propaganda from Jeff White, nothing else. Just compare that with what was just written in National Journal:
    ‘Next year’s single greatest terrorist threat will come from Syria.
    That’s the word from National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen, who said extremists are taking advantage of the chaos created by the Syrian civil war to create a threat to U.S. security.
    A hodgepodge of rebel groups are battling strongman Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria, including groups linked to al-Qaida. “As the conflict in Syria rages on, we are concerned about the flow of fighters to the country and the likelihood that they will pose a threat when they return from Syria to their home countries,” Olsen said.
    Dealing with this threat, Olsen said, “will be the primary focus of our counterterrorism efforts in 2014.”‘
    It seems quite clear to me why WINEP peddles a line of terrorsm denial. WINEP terrorism denial is a futile attempt of using lies to prevent an emerging consensus in Geneva that terrorism indeed is a huge problem and only the Syrian Army is able to handle that problem. See Lavrov today:
    West admits Assad heading Syria is better than terrorists – Lavrov
    And see what Syria wants in Geneva:
    Mikdad: Counter-terrorism should top Geneva2 conference on Syria
    In White’s paper there are many more such efforts to peddle untrue things for propaganda purposes. However, what the progress is, is that WINEP now finally admitted that the Syrian government is on the way to win the war.

  11. Charles I says:

    Many months ago when whispers of rebel factionalism and illegitimacy grew to cries about foreign fighters, a few reports of just such non-salafist returning to the fold surfaced. I recall Assad raising this point with a skeptical Charlie Rose who had some difficulty with such fluid battlefield realities. Seems he could not picture Assad’s rebellious “victims” and enemies finding Assad their new friend as enemy of their new greater unmasked enemy.
    What I recall reading was that it seems to take foreign Salfists wielding foreign fatwas at gunpoint to the point of local outrage. And the demonstrated sense of entitlement to a say in the future such johnny-come-lately participation instills in its fervent sojourners, and the resultant resentment of less fervent local futurists
    One assumes there are some kind of perfunctory negotiations for terms appealing enough to seal the deal, beyond “I won’t torture you upon return” that are also calculated to appeal to return.

  12. FB Ali says:

    In reading commentary/analysis (and even the “news”) in US media I have got into the habit of automatically disregarding the propaganda.
    What I meant, and should have said, was that this was an excellent conclusion (especially for them) based on a realistic analysis.

  13. Alba Etie says:

    I pray your prediction regarding the UN Security Resolution tasking the Syrian Arab Army with defeating the salafist comes true. That would mean that the USG would also have to support such a resolution yes ? That could also mean that the AIPAC stranglehold on the US political process is being mitigated – if not eliminated. I am prepared to give the Obama Administration the benefit of the doubt regarding it realizing the strategic error of removing President Assad via al Qaida jihadis . I believe that the realist in the Obama administration are winning the argument about military misadventures with the R2P/neocon crowd . Secretary of Defense Hagel and General Dempsey are beating back the neocons . I also believe that BHO does not get enough credit for staring down the American Likud regarding Iran . Not only did President Obama not go to bomb Natanz the way Bibi wanted him to – currently President Obama is threatening to veto any legislation that might scuttle the current Iran deal on nuclear disarmament . Its high time that our national leadership started separating our national interest from the Israel lobby . I also might add it is my believe that the American public is forcing this re-evalution of armed conflict as an instrument of first resort . Witness the push back when Congress voted down the AUMF on Syria last year . I do believe the realist or winning . (Further evidence of that might be the $ 150 million dollars Sheldon Adelsen pissed away in support of the neocon candidate Romney- thank you SCOTUS for making corporations people )
    Now on a totally unrelated foreign policy question – Bandolero do you have any insight into whether or not we will see armed conflict in the near or mid term with the PRC and our Pacific allies regarding the Daiyous and other territorial disputes . I pray we are not underestimating the Chinese military – apparently they are putting up their on GPS systems – and seem to be advancing their stealth platforms . Plus the PRC is building its on space station too.

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