Border grabs show Syrian rebels striking at the essentials of state control

First the capital, now the borders.

Syria’s rebels are striking at essentials of state control.

They've seized crossing points to Iraq and Turkey that could become conduits for rebel arms.

No wonder government troops have been fighting hard to win them back.

A state that does not control its borders does not control the country.

All of this is a sign that Assad’s formidable forces are being stretched by the battle for Damascus. But they are by no means at breaking point.

While state television showed pictures of captured rebel fighters, the regime claims they have reasserted their rule over of the city centre.

It’s at the cost of heavy shelling, helicopter rockets and a traumatised population.

In a quieter corner of the capital, the funeral took place of Dawoud Rajiha, the defence minister, killed in this week’s bomb at the National Security Headquarters.

The President evidently stayed away, but we might imagine Assad’s mood made gloomier still with news that his national security chief has died of injuries from the same blast.

President Assad pictured in 2010 Credit: Reuters

From exile, the leader of the Free Syrian Army vowed that the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan, beginning today, will be decisive.

Here on the Syrian border with Jordan, activists are less confident about the time-scale….many say it could be as long as six month…but they all agree on the outcome.

"He was run out of options. He tried to kills us, he tried to rape our women, he tried to put us in jail, and none of that worked. No he can only go,’’ one senior activist told me today.

Russia’s Ambassador to France says he believes Assad is ready to stand down in what he calls a 'civilised manner’.

Cue predictable and furious denials from Syrian officials.

But even if he were to go 'in a civilised manner' what kind of chaos he would leave behind is another question.