Salimani’s presence in Syria serves as an indication of the kind of battle that Assad is planning against opposition forces, with the Syrian army reportedly planning to wage all out war against the rebel city of Homs.

According to the report, the Syrian president’s goal is to gain ground ahead of a planned visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who will be arriving in the country along with a military delegation which includes the head of Russian intelligence.

Assad’s aim, sources say, is to display his control of the situation and his ability to suppress the unrest, with the determining battles to be staged in Homs and in the reoccupation of the town of Zabadani, which fell to Free Syria Army forces.

An Al-Arabiya report indicated that the battle over Zabadani has already begun, with Syrian soldiers defecting to the opposition along with eight tanks, and that Homs has been placed under a siege which has included the cutting of electricity and water supplies.