Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bashar Assad is 'beating the odds'

[Karon-TIME] "...As bad as things may be, President Bashar al-Assad and his entourage know that for them, things could be a whole lot worse. Sure, the regime has lost control of vast swathes of territory that appear to be intractably under the control of insurgents. But if the rebels are able to control much of the countryside, they remain hopelessly outgunned in the head-to-head fight for the major cities, with no sign of any heavy weapons deliveries from their allies abroad, much less a NATO cavalry riding to the rescue as it had done in Libya. The rebels continue to be plagued by divisions, and Western powers are increasingly anxious over the influence of salafist extremists within the armed insurgency.
The expected collapse of Assad’s armed forces has failed to materialize, and defections to the rebel side have slowed to a trickle. Instead of signaling an imminent denouement, the incremental gains and losses of each side along the shifting front-lines suggests a strategic stalemate, in which neither side is capable of delivering the other a knockout blow.....
... for all Turkey’s bluster — and NATO’s obligatory vows “to protect and defend Turkey if necessary” — the fact that the provocative shelling from the Syrian side continued for six days suggests that Assad is calling the bluff of his old friend, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A majority of the Turkish public opposes sending troops into Syria; the war has already imposed an economic burden on Turkey through the cutoff of trade and the refugee crisis, and it has also boosted the fortunes of the separatist PKK insurgency among Turkey’s Kurds as well as raising tensions with its Alawite and Alevi minorities. The Western powers without whose active involvement most analysts concur Turkey might find its capabilities stretched by a solo Syria intervention show no appetite for that option.
Alarmed by the sense that Washington is preparing for a scenario in which the Syria war drags on for many months yet, some of Turkey’s recent moves may point to a growing urgency in Ankara about quickly resolving the Syria crisis, rather than living with the consequences of a long war.  Foreign minister Ahmed Davutoglu last weekend publicly nominated Assad’s deputy president, Farouk al-Sharaa, as an acceptable figure to head a transitional government, a suggestion quickly rejected by rebel groups.
... The political consensus in Washington opposes direct military intervention in Syria, even if there are differences over the question of facilitating arms transfers to the rebels.
Insulating Jordan could even be a two-way street, not only preventing the Syrian military from conducting cross-border operations but also preventing anti-Assad insurgents using it as a sanctuary from which to stage attacks: The salafist current in the Syrian insurgency would, in the long-term, pose as much threat to the Hashemite monarchy as to the Assad dictatorship, and Jordan hardly wants jihadists operating on its own soil, even if their immediate target is in Damascus......
Things are hardly looking good for Assad at this point. ... Still, he’s far from beaten, and if anything, ...  Assad also coolly assessed the regional and international strategic balance and concluded that he could count on strong backing from Iran and Russia against any attempt to dispatch him a la Gaddafi...."

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