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Syria in the fog of war

By Julie Bishop - posted Thursday, 28 February 2013


When seeking to assess the progress of any conflict it is wise to be mindful of the old adage that "truth is the first casualty of war".

This is particularly important in relation to the bloody conflict in Syria which involves disparate groups, not part of a formal armed force, yet united in their opposition to a tyrant.

The additional complexity of rival groups operating under the fog of war makes it more difficult to judge the motivations behind the information or misinformation that is selectively released by all participants.

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Over the past 12 months there have been numerous predictions of the imminent collapse of the regime of President Bashir al-Assad.

These predictions are often accompanied by reports of rapid gains by the rebel forces and a failure of the Syrian government armed forces to withstand these assaults.

The motivation for reports of the rebels' military victories is clearly part of an age-old tactic of undermining morale within the regime, and hopefully encouraging defections and desertions to deplete the regime's strength.

To counter these reports, the Assad regime portrays itself as a legitimate government that remains in control of a substantial military force and which will eventually regain control of the entire country.

These actions are likewise entirely predictable.

However, some recent developments reveal the deep complexity of the strategic environment in which this conflict it taking place.

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Worryingly, there are reports of Syrian government forces withdrawing from the Golan region that borders Israel.

This will have the effect of removing any barrier between the Israel forces occupying the Golan Heights and the extremist elements within the rebel groups in Syria that include al-Qaeda among others.

There are also reports of factions within the rebel forces threatening to launch attacks against the Lebanon-based Hezbollah forces that are aligned to Iran and the Assad regime.

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About the Author

Julie Bishop is the Federal Member for Curtin, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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