Yesterday, the Syrian Arab Army’s 15th Brigade of the 5th Armored Division – alongside the 7th Mechanized Division and the National Defense Forces (NDF) – imposed full control over the strategic city of Sheikh Miskeen in the Dara’a Governorate’s northern countryside after a month long battle with the Islamist rebels of Jabhat Al-Nusra (Syrian Al-Qaeda group) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
While the duration of the battle may seem discouraging for the Syrian Arab Army supporters, there are some factors that must be taken in account before criticizing the entire military operation.
For one, Sheikh Miskeen is the 4th largest city in the Dara’a Governorate; it sits 22 km north of Dara’a City and 80 km south of the Syrian capital.
Sheikh Miskeen has never been a densely populated city like Jassim, Dara’a, or Izra’a; however, its location in the province makes it an imperative site to conduct any offensive.
Following the capture of Sheikh Miskeen, the Syrian Arab Army can now target several cities and villages that were once out of reach, like Nawa and Jassim.
More importantly, the capture of Sheikh Miskeen gives the Syrian Government an upper-hand at Geneva 3 – they are no longer “losing” the Dara’a Governorate.
In 2014, the Syrian Opposition boasted about their achievements in northern Hama (Morek, Ma’an, and Taybat Al-Imam), Latakia (Kassab), Dara’a (Tal Al-Harra, Sheikh Miskeen, and Nawa), and Al-Quneitra (Quneitra City and the Golan border-crossing); this left the Syrian Government at a disadvantage during debates.
However, this time around, the Syrian Opposition is on the defensive all around the country; and important victories like the one at Sheikh Miskeen only drives the narrative that the Syrian Government has the upper-hand on the field of battle.