"...Such access to the Syrian army was almost unimaginable just a few months ago and there are good reasons why. The army believe they are at last winning back ground from the Free Syrian Army and the al-Nusra Islamist fighters and the various al-Qa’ida satellites that now rule much of the Syrian countryside. From Point 45 they are scarcely a mile and a half from the Turkish frontier and intend to take the ground in between. Outside Damascus they have battled their way bloodily into two rebel-held suburbs. While I was prowling through the mountaintop positions, the rebels were in danger of losing the town of Qusayr outside Homs amid opposition accusations of the widespread killing of civilians. The main road from Damascus to Latakia on the Mediterranean coast has been reopened by the army.
And the line troops I met at Point 45 were a different breed of men from those soldiers who became corrupted after 29 years of semi-occupation in Lebanon, who fell back to Syria without a war to fight in 2005, the discipline of the soldiers around Damascus a joke rather than a threat to anyone. Bashar’s Special Forces now appear confident, ruthless, politically motivated, a danger to their enemies, their uniforms smart, their weapons clean. Syrians have long grown used to the claims by Israel – inevitably followed by the Washington echo machine – that chemical weapons have been used by Bashar’s forces; as an intelligence officer remarked caustically in Damascus: “Why should we use chemical weapons when our Mig aircraft and their bombs cause infinitely more destruction?” .... And I rather think that the soldiers of what is officially called the Syrian Arab Army are fighting for Syria rather than Assad. But fighting they are and maybe, for now, they are winning an unwinnable war.. ..."