Syria: After Qusayr, Regime Eyes Aleppo
By: Radwan Mortada
Published Tuesday, May 28, 2013
As the battle for Qusayr winds down, regime forces are preparing to wrest Aleppo from the Syrian opposition, which overran the city last July.
According to Syrian security sources, the Syrian army has begun building up its forces in several areas in preparation to storm opposition-controlled Aleppo. The sources explained that they are in the process of surrounding the city in order to cut off the oppositions supply lines.
If it were to succeed, then the regime would have managed to regain two of Syria’s most important governorates: Homs and Aleppo.
Homs was the “capital of the Syrian revolution,” until government troops retook the city. Ten months have passed since opposition fighters managed to flood Aleppo by the thousands, surprising both the regime and the city’s residents. The city had remained solidly in the loyalist camp for more than a year into the Syrian crisis and no one expected it to fall into the hands of the opposition so quickly and easily.
Government sources attributed the fall of Aleppo to the collusion Mohammed Mufleh, the former chief of Syrian Military Intelligence in Hama, with the opposition’s Tawhid Brigade. According to military sources, Mufleh was paid a large sum of money to facilitate the passage of thousands of opposition fighters into the city.
Military sources maintained that the Aleppans were not particularly welcoming of the opposition, which committed massacres against whole loyalist families, like the Bazzi clan. The same sources estimated the number of fighters in the city may have now reached 20,000.
Mufleh’s defection and the role he played in Aleppo is old news by now. What has not been known until now, however, is his relationship to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Tawhid Brigade, particularly in its initial phases.
Reports suggested that the intelligence chief – before announcing his defection – was in cahoots with Tawhid as it tried to establish its hold in the areas of Aleppo and Idlib.
The relationship reached a point in which Mufleh was prepared to hand over all the weapons at his disposal to the brigade. Tawhid waged a series of successful side battles with other armed groups, accusing them of working for the regime.
After Mufleh’s defection, contacts between Tawhid and commanders loyal to him continued. The breaking point, however, came when these commanders requested that Tawhid “lay down its weapons and declare that it will enter into negotiations with the regime,” only to discover that the opposition brigade had opened up new channels with Turkey and Qatar, before finally announcing its loyalty to the Muslim Brotherhood.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.