President Bashar al-Assad told Baath Party members on Monday that the party needed to “enhance national unity” across Syria, by increasing its popular support base through improved engagement with citizens.

In a strong hint that Assad is concerned his regime is losing popular support, and that it needs to do more to win over Syrian hearts and minds, the President said that the party needed to create an infrastructure that would allow it to reach out to civilians from the ground up.

“One of the party’s top priorities at the next stage is enhancing national unity, which cannot be done except through organizations and unions as they form the popular base,” President al-Assad said.

Assad attempted to root these ideas within Baath Party ideology, talking of the party’s “history of struggle” as part of an ongoing process “which necessitates staying in touch with reality and consolidating the culture of dialog and popular volunteer work”.

The President said the Baath Party needed to have good representatives who could connect with the population and “realize the interests of the broader segments, including workers, farmers and craftsmen”.

It is not clear yet how exactly the Assad regime will translate these concepts into action. Will the plan include the creation of a “popular militia” — along the lines of Iran’s Basij — that rather than fighting will engage in local services to win over communities and neighborhoods?

Whatever the outcome, Assad’s speech indicates that, alongside its ongoing battle for military control, the regime is about to step up its war to win Syrians’ hearts and minds.

Notably, the move comes as local insurgent groups in neighborhoods in several cities, including Aleppo and Damascus, appear to have stepped up efforts to show how they are carrying out local services — including reconstruction efforts — and helping civilians in various ways, such as with food and medical aid.

This video, posted on Monday, shows an activist-run clinic in Yalda in the Damascus countryside:

In Aleppo’s northern Ashrafiyeh neighborhood, the Badr Martyrs Brigade have produced a number of amateur videos showing how insurgents from their group are leading local reconstruction efforts.

Video: Repairing an electricity cable:

Video: Expanding the Bukhari Mosque ahead of Ramadan, after insurgents claim that most of the neighborhood’s mosques have been destroyed or damaged in regime shelling: