Many of the latest reports out of Syria indicate that President Bashar al-Assad has regained the upper hand against the rebels.The UN special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said as much on Tuesday when he acknowledged that the regime “may be able to hold onto power for now.”
Assad reportedly told visitors that the Syrian army has “regained the initiative on the ground to a very high degree and achieved important results” as “armed groups received several hard blows recently,” according to Lebanese daily Al Akbhar.
Akbhar’s report makes it sound like Assad regime’s new tactics — leaving non-significant areas only to bomb them and force the population to live under rebel rule without basic necessities — are going according to plan. Assad reportedly said the regime has “stopped fighters from controlling whole [provinces]” and all of the key strategic points around Damascus have “remained safe, especially the airport road.”
There are also reports that the Syrian Army has launched counteroffensives in the north in Homs and around Hamas as rebels struggle to resist because of a lack of ammunition. Meanwhile rebels in the northeast are clashing with Kurdish rebels — an example of rebel infighting that Assad is increasingly counting on.
The changes on the ground forced French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to acknowledge last week that there are no signs that Assad is about to be overthrown, which is a significant backtrack from last month when he said he thought “the end is nearing for Bashar al-Assad.”
On the other hand, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev recently said Assad’s chances of staying in power are “shrinking by the day,” and Martin Chulov of The Guardian reported that rebels are now camping out in the hills above Assad’s ancestral homeland and sanctuary.
And last week U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who told CNN that Assad’s mother, Anisa Makhlouf, has fled the country for the United Arab Emirates, adding that members of the regime “little by little, are flaking off … They themselves know they are losing.”
So perhaps Assad remains defiant and a little crazy because he knows, as a Russian diplomat said last month, that he will be killed by his own people or the opposition unless he successfully puts down the revolution.
But maybe his newfound aplomb comes from the fact that rebels appear much less capable of toppling him right now, and the West knows it.
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