Syrian President Assad has assumed personal command of Syrian forces and remains convinced his regime will prevail militarily, Samia Nakhoul of Reuters reports. After waves of defections and a rebel bombing in July that killed members of his inner circle and cost his brother a leg, Assad’s supporters are now saying the 47-year-old president is self-confident and combative after taking over day-to-day leadership.
“He is no longer a president who depends on his team and directs through his aides,” a pro-Syrian Lebanese politician with close ties to Assad told Reuters. “This is a fundamental change in Assad’s thinking. Now he is involved in directing the battle.”
The politician added the Iranians and the Russians may have helped the steady the daily operations and fighting nerve of Syrian forces, who are now focusing their superior firepower on essential areas—the capital Damascus, the commercial hub of Aleppo and the main roads.
It may not be going as well as Assad’s supporters claim as Al-Jazeera reports that opposition fighters have taken control of Maarat al-Numan, a key town on the highway linking Damascus with Aleppo that serves as a pipeline for regime reinforcements headed to Aleppo.
An Arab official told Reuters that Assad’s fate is almost irrelevant as the 18-month civil war has destroyed the fabric, as well as the infrastructure, of Syrian society.
“Everybody is kind of hypnotized by the issue of whether Bashar is president or not, whether he is leaving or not,” the Arab official said. “I fear the problem is much bigger than that. The problem is to see how Syria is going to survive, how the new Syria is going to be born.”
The Lebanese politician said that “the following or six months will be essential in the battle and not like the past four or five months that have passed” because the U.S. election will be over while Iran and Russia will double down on their support for Assad to maintain their power roles in the region.
Despite Assad’s newfound bravado, a Western diplomat told Reuters that something will happen “which causes the regime to fall. The fall of Damascus, a regime coup, or something else. I can’t predict what the trigger will be but the regime will fall.”
Meanwhile Turkey’s Chief of Staff, General Necdet Ozel, said that the Turks “will respond with greater force” if Syria continues to send shells into Turkish territory, according to Jonathon Burch of Reuters.
On Tuesday NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that NATO has “all necessary plans in place to protect and defend Turkey if necessary,” according to the Associated Press.
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