Ancient Persian Sculptures by Kāvaśajī Dīnaśāhajī Kiash

By Kāvaśajī Dīnaśāhajī Kiash

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Directly controlled by Assad's relatives and financed by regime associ­ 6 o | Syria's Uprising and th e Fracturing o f the Levant ates, the shadowy shabbiha were particularly useful in providing a degree of deniability that could confuse foreign observers and media. Though not exclusively Alawites, they played a leading role in imposing terror in Sunni villages at the periphery of the Alawite region and in assisting the military in clearing out urban areas. They were responsible for a series of atrocities committed against civilians, including massacres in villages such as Houla, the first on such a large scale, in May 2012.

Competition over ideology, territory, tactics and resources as well as the trials of fighting a war would later frag­ ment the rebel front. The government's initial strategy was to deploy overwhelm­ ing force to crush protests and rebels, while undertaking quiet outreach to local chieftains. It combined traditional security operations in most cities (monitoring and arrest of activists, intimidation, torture, plus some accommodation of the local population) with a deployment of military assets in rural areas where the challenge was greater.

It particularly sought to secure the outer ring of Jabal al-Nusayriyah. The military proved able to score tactical victories in urban settings thanks to massive shelling and the blockade of rebel-friendly areas. Over time, government forces chose to ignore areas deemed as unimport­ ant or irretrievable, often resorting to artillery and air-strikes to pummel them. A key objective for the regime was to prevent the gathering and organisation of large rebel units on Syrian soil, a task for which air power was used.

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