So often is it repeated by regime propagandists that “it was silly to expect Assad to fall because he never held less than 14 (later 13/12) out of 14 provincial capitals”. This is an archetypal piece of disinformation from the many which litter the narratives on the conflict.
First of all: there aren’t 14 provincial capitals, there are 13, since the provinces of “Damascus” and “Damascus countryside” share the same capital.
Second of all, is this claim is deceptive to the extreme. The 13 provincial capitals in Syria are the cities of Damascus, Homs, Hama, Dara’a, Lattakia, Tartus, Aleppo, Hassakah, Quneitera, Suweida, Idlib, Raqqa, Deir al-Zor.
Of these, *only 5* are fully held by the regime: Lattakia, Tartus, Suweida, Homs and Hama. Lattakia and Tartus are Alawite-majority cities, whilst Suweida is the capital of the minority Druze. Hama very briefly escaped regime control when locals occupied the city pretty much with bare hands, but this lasted 3 weeks and the army came and reoccupied it. Hama’s problem was that it lay right in the middle of the country and thus far away from any supply lines from Turkey, Jordan, Iraq or Lebanon, and so it was trapped from the start (despite probably being the most anti-regime city). Finally Homs was fiercely disputed between the rebels and the regime before the regime finally occupied it in 2013, after leveling most of the city’s buildings to the ground.
Meanwhile 3 provincial capitals are fully empty from the regime: Quneitera is controlled by the FSA, Idlib by the Jaish al-Fateh military coalition and Raqqa by ISIS. It should be noted that the provincial capital that is almost always mentioned to have escaped the regime is Raqqa, and perhaps sometimes Idlib – Quneitera however is often forgotten.
The rest: Hassakah is mostly held by Kurdish forces (approximately 75% of the city).
Deir al-Zor: overwhelmingly held by ISIS, save for a regime military base holding out under siege.
Dara’a: Divided between rebels and the regime
Aleppo: Divided between rebels and the regime
Damascus: Divided between rebels and the regime
Lets bear that in mind next time you hear “Assad holds almost all of Syria’s provincial capitals”.