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Syria Snap Analysis: Regime Forces Take Qusayr --- What Next?

Footage from Al-Mayadeen TV of the regime capture of Qusayr

On Wednesday, after weeks of siege and attacks, regime forces took Qusayr, the town near the Lebanese border and 18 miles from Homs.

The event inevitably dominated headines, but what does it mean?

Sharper observers noted that the Syrian military's success did not herald a turning point in the 27-month conflict, at least in the sense of an inevitable regime victory.

Instead, the capture of Qusayr was important for defence. President Assad's forces are establishing a buffer zone in the south protecting Homs, Syria's third-largest city, and its connection to the capital Damascus. They have also made the supply of insurgents, including military equipment from foreign sources, more difficult --- but far from impossible.

None of this touches the control of territory across much of northern and eastern Syria by insurgents. Nor does it resolve the situation in Aleppo, the country's largest city, divided for 10 months. It does not even offer much for the continuing deadlock around the capital, with insurgents still holding suburbs.

So rather than portending "victory", the development reinforces stalemate.

That stalemate was re-confirmed on the political level on Wednesday, when the US, Russia, and the United Nations went through the motions of talking about the proposed international "peace" conference.

That conference --- flagged initially for June in Geneva --- is not going to happen this month. Nor is likely to happen in any month this summar, as yesterday's meeting offered no prospect of bringing both the Syrian regime and the opposition to the same negotiating table. The insurgents continue to insist on Assad's step-aside from power during a transition; Damascus refuses. That is pretty much that.

Instead, the question beyond Qusayr is over the political and military steps taken by foreign powers away from a supposed conference: will the US, Britain, France, Turkey, and Arab States now ramp up intervention --- with supplies of weapons and even a protected zone in the north?

The steps are definitely under consideration. That is why, even as Qusayr was falling, Britain and France was loudly reviving the chemical weapons issue, saying they would take confirmed evidence of regime use of sarin nerve agent to the United Nations.

Washington, publicly and privately, is still cautious: the White House refused to endorse the London-Paris initiative, both on Tuesday and Wednesday. However --- as some within the Obama Administration were eager to leak last week --- the measures are under consideration, with plans being drafted.

Qusayr did not resolve the Syrian conflict. It only highlighted that resolution is distant.

The regime is unlikely to alter this with victory in one town, achieved only with substantial help from Hezbollah. Whether the insurgency and the "West" can do so is the more intriguing scenario.

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