Assad claimed to be in Aleppo, threatening to send 30.000 more troops

BEIRUT, Oct 2 (Reuters) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is visiting the city of Aleppo to take a first-hand look at the fighting between government forces and rebels and has ordered 30,000 more troops into the battle, a Lebanese paper said on Tuesday. Al-Diyar newspaper, which is known for its pro-Assad stance, said the president had flown by helicopter at dawn from the presidential palace in Damascus to Aleppo. It did not specify what day the trip started but said that Assad was still in Aleppo. The visit was decided on after reports that the situation in the city, Syria’s largest and its commercial center, had become very serious. “President Assad ordered units 5 and 6, estimated to be 30,000 soldiers and 2,000 personnel carriers, to move from Hama to Aleppo and to attack any occupied areas of Aleppo province from the Turkish border,” it said. Reuters was unable to independently verify the report. An employee of al-Diyar told Reuters it had a correspondent in the city. Syrian state media made no mention of any visit.

Meanwhile, media reports indicated that the regime forces are preparing to launch an offensive to regain control on the country’s two main cities, Damascus and Aleppo. The official al-Baath daily reported that “the end of the security operations throughout the province of Damascus” should not be delayed. The Syrian newspaper Al-Watan, which is close to the regime, reported that large reinforcements were sent to Aleppo to support the Army units deployed in the city. “It is a sign of the determination of the army to win the battle in Aleppo,” the newspaper said. Another newspaper, reported the arrival of fresh troops to Aleppo. The newspaper said that President Bashar al-Assad visited the city in person to oversee preparations for the offensive which is set to begin Thursday. However, the rebels do not believe this report about the visit. Colonel Riad Al-Assaad, head of the Free Syrian Army said the report came to demoralize the revolutionary forces: “I do not think Assad is stupid enough to come to Aleppo. The city is in the heat of battle. He never commits the mistake of going to a place that is beyond the control of his army.” Regarding the arrival of 30,000 soldiers in Aleppo, Riad Al-Assaad said: “The regime is very weak. It suffered many losses lately.”

As many as 20.000 troops may have arrived in Aleppo already in the past few weeks, but they are not really being put to use as no single area in the city has been successfully massively stormed yet. It is clear that there is fear for a full on confrontation, most likely due to fear of massive defections when that happens, and that problem can’t be solved by 30.000 more troops, probably even less loyal than the ones there now. There has been no news or footage of large convoys heading to Aleppo, unlike the last few times reinforcements arrived. If the regime truly decides to more than double their troops in Aleppo and actually put them to use, the harder it fall when this fails.

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