The Council has spoken, the votes have been cast, and the results are in for this week's Watcher's Council match up.
No solution can be reached with terror except by striking it with an iron fist. - Syrian Leader Basher Assad
Peace is purchased from strength. It's not purchased from weakness or unilateral retreats. - Benyamin Netanyahu
You don't despair about something like the Middle East, you just do the best you can.- PJ O'Rourke
Above all, it is not decency or goodness of gentleness that impresses the Middle East, but strength. - Meir Kahane
This week's winning essay by a hair is Joshuapundit's Syria Splits Apart As Assad Digs In Against ISIS . While the main focus of attention for the media these days is on Iraq, interesting things are going on in Syria that could shape the Middle East for some time, and this was my take on it.Here's a slice:
While a lot of attention is being paid to ISIS's successes in Iraq, few people have been watching the changes going on in Syria. As I predicted just shy of three years ago, Syria, a made up country to begin with appears to be fracturing pretty much along the lines I saw back then. Assad's hold on Syria depended on two things - how long the carnage could continue on one side or the other before it reached the point of no return and how long the Russians, Hezbollah and Iran would continue to support him. That point has apparently been reached with a quarter of a million deaths and the reduction of Assad's army from its beginning strength at 300,000 to something like 175,000 men from Assad's regular army, pro-regime Syrian militias and foreign fighters mostly from Hezbollah and Iran. He simply no longer has the forces necessary to hold all of Syria. And his allies are gradually moving on. The latest gain for ISIS was their successful offensive on the ancient city of Palmyra in Eastern Syria,which gave them a strategic path to assaults on the regime's key cities of Homs and Hama. If they're successful, they would literally cut off Damascus from the rest of Assad's territory. The victory by Isis was celebrated Old School style:
Islamic State militants have executed at least 400 mostly women and children in Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra Eye-witnesses have reported the streets are strewn with bodies – the latest victims of the Islamic State’s unrelenting savagery – on the same day photographs of captured Syrian soldiers have emerged. It follows the killing of nearly 300 pro-government troops two days after they captured the city, now symbolised by a black ISIS flag flying above an ancient citadel.
As an added bonus, ISIS freed a large number of jihadis held in Palmyra's notorious Tadmur Prison. What Assad is hoping for now is that he has enough troops to hold on to his strategic corridor in North and west Syria..Damascus, Homs and Hama and the coast areas of Latakia and Tartus, key cities where the majority of Alawites, Assad's Shi'ite oriented sect live. What he's doing is attempting a strategic withdrawal into territory his forces are better able to hold,something his allies are likely insisting on because their own commitments are becoming strained. For the Russians, supplying Assad with the tools of the trade has become an expensive proposition, one Russia has increasing difficulty meeting. Putin is still selling Assad ammunition and other supplies, but the Russians have cut way back on the more expensive toys like attack helicopters and are taking a wait and see attitude. As Hezbollah's casualties have increased in Syria, its leader Sheik Nasrallah has come under massive pressure to cut back on the number of troops being sent to Syria from Lebanon. Hezbollah troops are still fighting in Qalamoun along the Lebanese border,one of the few areas where the Assad regime is taking the offensive, but massive casualties incurred during Assad's failed offensive in February on Aleppo have taken their toll. This all puts a great deal of pressure on Iran. Aside from the financial cost, the strategic cost is huge. As Assad is forced into a defensive redoubt, the Shi'te bloc Iran thought it was creating from Tehran to Beirut is increasingly unlikely, especially with the pressure ISIS is putting on Iran's Shi'ite allies in Iraq. They will undoubtedly have to commit a lot more resources, human and otherwise just to keep Assad holding on. For Basher Assad, his task will be to hold on to Damascus, the highways between Damascus and Beruit and Damascus and Homs, as well as the coast cities like Latakia and Tartous. With his reduced supply lines and less territory to defend, Assad has a decent shot at hanging on, especially since his part of Syria would contain about half of the country's population. More at the link, including an interesting update on ISIS's latest moves. In our non-Council category, the winner was Western Journalism – Why The Mass Media Are Silent On The Largest Human Rights Disaster Of Our Time submitted by Joshuapundit. It features a must-see video by Ray Ibrahim that explains exactly why the mass edia are keeping quiet. Here are this week’s full results. Only Don Surber was unable to vote this week, but was not subject to the usual 2/3 vote penalty for not voting:
- *First place with 3 2/3 votes!-Joshuapundit-Syria Splits Apart As Assad Digs In Against ISIS
- Second place with 3 1/3 votes –Bookworm Room – Gender identity: Who are you gonna believe? Me or your lying eyes? *UPDATED*
- Third place with 1 2/3 votes –Don Surber – Carly Goes Reagan
- Fourth place with 1 vote –The Razor – Here vs There
- Fifth place *t* with 2/3 vote –Ask Marion – New Polls: Palin Slams Bush and Clinton
- Fifth place *t* with 2/3 vote –The Noisy Room – Cities on Fire: Phoenix
- Sixth place *t* with 1/3 vote –The Independent Sentinel – Future Democratic Voters Flooding Into the U.S.
- Sixth place *t* with 1/3 vote –The Right Planet – Oleg Atbashian: What Surprised Me in America: An Immigrant’s Account of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
- Sixth place *t* with 1/3 vote –The Glittering Eye -The Swiss Do It Again"
- First place with 2 2/3 votes! –Western Journalism – Why The Mass Media Are Silent On The Largest Human Rights Disaster Of Our Time submitted by Joshuapundit
- Second place with 1 1/3 votes –Politically Short – Assassinating The American Spirit Of Independence submitted by The Right Planet
- Third place *t* with 1 vote – Andrew Malcolm – Obama warns global warming could maybe make hurricanes worse, if we had any submitted by Don Surber
- Third place *t* with 1 vote –Walt Heyer/Public Discourse-"Sex Change" Surgery: What Bruce Jenner, Diane Sawyer, and You Should Know submitted by Bookworm Room
- Third place *t* with 1 vote –Gay Patriot –Leftists Stand Up for Freedom of Certain Religions submitted by Rhymes With Right
- Third place *t* with 1 vote – The American Interest –How We're Failing in the Middle East submitted by The Razor
- Fourth place *t* with 2/3 votes -Mark Steyn –The Dull Thud of a New Yorker Towel Snap submitted by The Noisy Room
- Fourth place *t* with 2/3 votes -Orin Kerr/The Volokh Conspiracy – "If I understand the history correctly…" submitted by The Glittering Eye
- Fourth place *t* with 2/3 votes -David French/NRO -Brice 'Caitlyn' Jennings needs Our Prayers submitted by Nice Deb
- Fourth place *t* with 2/3 votes -Dave Huber/ The College Fix –Anti-Semitism, Free Speech, and Progressivism" submitted by The Wstcher
- Fourth place *t* with 2/3 votes - Robert Tracinski/The Federalist – 7 Way To Roll Back The Welfare State submitted by The Watcher
- Fifth place with 1/3 vote -Reclaim Our Republic -Hillary a ‘money-hungry hypocrite’, Bill ‘showing early signs of dementia’- Trial Set for RICO claims against Clintons submitted by Ask Marion
- Fifth place with 1/3 vote -Victory Girls–Executive Fiat: DOJ’s Loretta Lynch to Release ‘More Than a Dozen’ New Gun Control Regs submitted by VA Right!