Two major elements of the regime's approach are attrition and position. It seeks to wear down the opposition's forces and will by inflicting material and morale losses in sustained fighting, even if these engagements are not necessarily intense or decisive. It also aims to control key positions -- provincial capitals, airfields, strongpoints, lines of communication, dominant terrain -- at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.
These two elements are mutually supportive. Attrition facilitates the taking and holding of key positions, which in turn imposes further attrition on rebel forces. These are necessarily slow processes and do not always work in the regime's favor, but by and large they have led to important offensive and defensive successes amid occasional failures.
The Damascus and Aleppo offensives present both opportunity and risk for the regime. The long war it is fighting allows it to work methodically to reduce its opponents -- the regime can prioritize its objectives and pursue them without rushing, a kind of strategic patience. Nevertheless, whenever it commits serious resources to an operation with important goals, it must score enough visible success to claim "victory" and make the inevitable losses incurred worthwhile. Clear failure, as in Raqqa province last summer, results in both military and political setbacks for the regime.
The southern offensive -- which has centered on western Rif Damascus, Quneitra province, and northern Deraa province -- was launched because moderate and extremist rebel groups were pressing on the southern Damascus suburbs and threatening the regime's line of communication to Deraa city. The regime had been unable to manage the threat with its standard forces and airpower; this fact, coupled with Hezbollah's interest in establishing a new front with Israel, led to the current combined offensive involving regime, Hezbollah, and Iranian-allied Shiite militia forces. WINEP
SST has long described the continuing growth in capability of the Syrian Armed Forces. (SAF) Clausewitz wrote that actual combat experience survived by an army is the best possible form of training. The SAF has survived four years of war against a host of different opponents. Clausewitz also believed that the same thing was true of officers and that no amount of military schooling schooling and training could ever have the educational value of a campaign or two.
The SAF has survived that process and should be taken seriously as a battlefied "player." pl