Idlib’s ‘other’ military council, led by Mustafa Abdulkarim had its first success in early November when it captured the Duwailah air defense station outside Salqin after a month long siege, no doubt assisted by the unique terrain surrounding the regime’s position. As Riad Kahwali pointed out, this operation was part of a larger trend of rebels capturing air defense stations across Syria including in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, and Deir Ezzor, part of what Kahwali described as, “laying the ground for a no-fly zone.”
However, capturing air defense stations will not directly lead to the overthrow of the Assad regime as they are defensive assets, not a part of the regime’s repressive machine. The capture of these positions are also not likely to make an intervention more appealing for the West, as the effectiveness of Syria’s air defense system was already called into question in 2011. Fear of the regime’s military capabilities is not what is preventing an intervention. The capture of these positions is, however, providing the rebels with access to advanced weapons , as well as large amounts of ammunition. It is also a sign that the rebels’ military capabilities are continuing to improve. As of late spring 2012, rebels considered the capture of a checkpoint a major success. The rebels then moved on to capturing regime-held towns and border crossings, and since mid-summer 2012, began taking air defense stations which usually amount to small military bases. There are now signs that the rebels are seizing larger military bases, such as the section of the special forces base south of Atareb, captured today after part of the garrison defected.