The fog of war is thick over Syria, but one piece of news emerging from that fog could be significant: rebel forces are moving towards the Alawite heartland in the mountains of northwestern Syria.“Forces comprising 10 mainly Islamist brigades, including two al Qaeda-linked groups, advanced south to the outskirts of the Alawite village of Aramo, 20 km (12 miles) from Qardaha, taking advantage of rugged terrain,” opposition activists told Reuters. “On Sunday rebel fighters captured half a dozen villages on the northern tip of the Alawite Mountain,” the Reuters report continues, “located east of the port city of Latakia. The area is the main recruiting ground for Assad’s core praetorian guard units comprising the Republican Guards, Fourth Division and special forces.”Though this is not the first time rebel groups have appeared around Alawite towns in northwest Syria, it might be the strongest force to make a concerted intrusion since the beginning of the civil war. Government forces are at a disadvantage in the rough mountainous terrain, where tanks and other heavy equipment cannot easily go. And the blow to the morale of government forces all across the country could be severe; rebel forces are nearing the region from which many of the government’s soldiers come, putting their homes and families at risk.We don’t think this will be a game changer, but it could force government to move more of its forces away from battlefronts where it has been making gains. That could ease the pressure on rebel groups in the rest of the country and slow Assad’s momentum. All of this suggests that somewhere in the rebel leadership is a serious military mind at work.What we don’t know is whether aid from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other sources is flowing in fast enough to make a difference on the ground in the rest of the country—and how effective the aid and training for Syrian government forces from Iran and Russia have been.We’ve seen the momentum swing from government to rebels and back in the past year of war. At this point, it looks to be a war of attrition: can one side gain and hold enough arms and weapons to beat back the other? To some degree that comes down to a question of backers. The side with the most serious patrons is likely to win this war. At the moment, things still don’t look good for the rebels.