Demarcation opportunity

A view shows part of the Crac des Chevaliers fortress and smoke rising from Husen village homes in Homs, after soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad took control of it from rebel fighters, March 21, 2014. (REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri)

The Syrian army Friday declared itself in control of the entire west of Homs province, having secured the Crac des Chevaliers fortress a day earlier, itself a victory coming just days after the fall of Yabroud.

Does this mean that Hezbollah will now extricate itself from the Syrian crisis, appearing, as it has long claimed was its intention, to have secured the border with Lebanon?

This quick succession of victories, coming after a monthslong army siege of the areas, give rise to many questions.

Had the opposition simply being playing up word of its strengths? It claimed to have tens of thousands of fighters in Yabroud, but far fewer than that seemed to trickle out to surrounding villages when the army captured it over the weekend.

Or are there insiders working with the regime, passing on details of the opposition’s weaknesses? When rebels fled the Crac des Chevaliers castle Thursday, many were with their families, and left in such disarray that the army said it was able to kill at least 93 of them on their way out.

Perhaps rebel-on-rebel fighting has also had a part to play, disrupting cohesion amid opposition ranks, and potentially interrupting the flow of arms and money from up high. Certainly, the ongoing spat between Qatar and Saudi Arabia may also be having a trickledown effect.

If a silver lining is to be taken from these losses, it is that now that the Syrian army and Hezbollah have secured the area it is surely a step toward preventing the flow of explosives-laden cars into Lebanon.

The Syrian and Lebanese governments must now work together to seal, and indeed, demarcate this border, so that it can act as a disassociation buffer between the two.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 22, 2014, on page 7.




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