July 23, 2018

The Fall of Daraa

Why Syria's Rebels Continue to Fight Assad

By Nicholas Heras and Suha Maayeh

On July 6, after more than two weeks of hard fighting, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stood triumphant at the Nasib gate. The gate, which lies on the Jordanian-Syrian border on the edge of Syria’s southwestern Daraa province, controls the highway leading from Amman to Damascus; its seizure by anti-government rebels in April 2015 had been a serious blow to Assad. Now, with the government’s recapture of the Nasib gate, Daraa—the rebel stronghold where the uprising that sparked the country’s civil war began—lay open to Damascus. A little more than a week after Nasib’s fall, the city of Daraa agreed to surrender to Assad. For southwestern Syria’s opposition, things weren’t supposed to end this way.

Rebels in Daraa once had high hopes for defeating Assad. In mid-2015, on the heels of major rebel advances throughout Syria, Daraa’s armed opposition was convinced that it could expel the regime from its corner of the country. In June of that year, forces led by the Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) launched an offensive, dubbed Southern Storm, to evict the regime from the province’s capital city, also called Daraa. Although trumpeted by Syria watchers, Southern Storm garnered little in the way of attention from the international media and barely any support from the opposition’s main foreign backers, Jordan and the United States. And despite initial advances, the rebels failed to take the city. Within a month the offensive had ground to a halt—a de facto defeat for the opposition.

After the failure of Southern Storm, the battle for southwestern Syria—including the provinces of Daraa, Quneitra, and opposition-held areas of Sweida—settled into a stalemate. Neither Assad nor the opposition could make major gains, although Russia’s September 2015 military intervention on behalf of the regime made it nearly impossible for the rebels to win by military means. Although they did not know it at the time, Southern Storm had been the last, best hope for the rebels in Daraa.



Read the Full Article at Foreign Affairs

  • Commentary
    • December 16, 2020
    Sharper: 2020

    2020 featured an ever-evolving series of national security challenges....

    By Sam Dorshimer, Nathalie Grogan, Emily Jin, Chris Estep & Cole Stevens

  • Reports
    • December 16, 2020
    A New U.S. Strategy for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

    Executive Summary Key Proposition Today’s realities demand that the United States change its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its current focus is on high-profile...

    By Ilan Goldenberg, Michael Koplow & Tamara Cofman Wittes

  • Podcast
    • December 4, 2020
    How the US could return to the Iran nuclear deal

    The election of Joe Biden presents an opening to strengthen transatlantic diplomacy on Iran. Biden has already outlined his intention to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, primaril...

    By Ilan Goldenberg

  • Commentary
    • November 5, 2020
    Sharper: The Next Four Years

    America will face a range of national security challenges over the next four years. From sustaining military deterrence to bolstering the nation's economic leadership and more...

    By Chris Estep & Cole Stevens

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia