After Qusayr – what now for Syria?

After weeks of fierce fighting, the Syrian Army, backed by Hezbollah and other Shi'a fighters, captured Qusayr – a strategic city near the Lebanese border in western Syria. The 'celebrations' which marked the event in suburbs of Beirut and in the heart of Damascus may see the 'mercy killing' of Geneva 2 [next month’s peace conference] and increase the likelihood of Western military intervention in Syria.

Capturing Qusayr is by far the biggest accomplishment achieved by the Syrian regime and its allies since the conflict erupted in 2011.

A major blow to the opposition, the seizure of Qusayr will give a dose of confidence to the Syrian regime and its forces. This is clear through the ongoing celebrations in the latter, and the state of anger dominating the former, reflected in a statement by Syrian national coalition admitting defeat in Qusayr.

The statement affirmed that the defeat had caused “an enormous imbalance in power” and blame was placed on the Friends of Syria for “abandoning the opposition and not providing them with the necessary support.”

It is certain that Western and Arab powers supporting the Syrian opposition with money and weapons will be highly embarrassed by this victory for the regime. Nevertheless, many of the victims of massacres that took place in the region shortly after it fell belong to jihadist organisations. This may explain the lack of usual media attention to these killings.

Western powers will meet with the Syrian regime and Hezbollah regarding the liquidation of these groups, as they are the greatest danger.

The question that arises now is not about the strategic benefits of this achievement for the Syrian regime – it is undoubtedly a huge gain both politically and militarily  – but rather about the expected response from countries supporting the Syrian opposition.

Just hours after Qusayr fell, both Britain and France revived the topic of chemical weapons, citing evidence of Sarin gas having been used in several locations.

We must remember that these two countries are the ones who led NATO operations in Libya, with bases in southern Italy, launching British and French aircraft to bomb Tripoli, Sirte, Bani Walid and other Libyan cities, under the pretext of “protecting Libyan civilians” from massacres of the late Libyan ruler, Muammar Gaddafi.

The war in Syria has become a purely sectarian war. Now, under the banner of protecting Shi'a shrines and landmarks, an estimated ten thousand 'Shi'a jihadis' from Iraq, Lebanon, and Iran, have flocked to Damascus to fight side by side with the regime, and counteract the burgeoning Sunni jihadi presence.

The war in Syria will inevitably be prolonged. However discussions regarding the fall of the regime seem to be back on topic. This is further perpetuated by claims of the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad to be a core condition for stability at the Geneva conference, which has been postponed until July.

The fall of Qusayr to the Syrian regime is a major turning point in this war. It is no less important than the decision of militarisation of the intifada, or the control of major cities such as Al Raqqa, Al-Hasakah and most of the city of Aleppo and its countryside by opposition forces.

This explains the Iranian leadership's hurry to congratulate this “great” victory.

The strategy of the Syrian regime to transition from resistance to attack has started to achieve tangible progress on the ground. Do not be surprised, or rule out the possibility, of Aleppo becoming the second stage of this strategy after the fall of Qusayr.

At the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the regime was concerned about the fact that 150 countries united against it (Friends of Syria), and that they contributed a flow of weapons, volunteers and hundreds of millions of dollars to support the fight to accelerate its fall.

Now the greater concern, as well as the fear, has seemingly been transferred to those supporting the Syrian opposition, including the Gulf. They may now begin trembling every day that the regime endures, especially if it continues to make military progress.

Turkey, the regime's biggest opponent, is now suffering from its own popular uprising, and as for Jordan, it is suffering from a state of unprecedented confusion.

Bashar al-Assad may have allowed the hint of a smile to cross his face, even though the cost of the battle of Qusayr is the destruction of the entire city and the death or flight of most of its citizens. I don't know if it will be followed by other smiles in the coming weeks, or even months, but nothing so far suggests otherwise.