"... However certain Bashar's ultimate downfall may be, it is not imminent. The insurgents' principal strength, their network of small cells, is also their main weakness, as the diverse bands of fighters lack a unifying narrative to cement their common purpose ....
Bashar's last, best hope may lie now with the Russians. Not in receiving more arms from them, but in learning from their wars with the Chechens. In 1996, a large conventional Russian army was driven from Chechnya by a loose-knit swarm of tribal fighters. Yet a few years later, the Russians came back and defeated them. How? They succeeded by creating and unleashing a network of small units of their own, and by co-opting some of the clans. That is, they learned how to use swarm tactics against irregulars -- a real doctrinal breakthrough in military affairs. It is rumored that some of the Russian counterinsurgency specialists who helped turn around Chechnya are now providing advice along these lines to regime forces.
But could the Syrian Army really undertake such a radical shift in the middle of combat operations? It is certainly possible, ..... This would cede much of Syria to the rebels, a gambit fraught with peril and profound material and psychological consequences.
The bottom line is that the regime's military performance is highly unlikely to improve to the point at which it can defeat the insurgents -- unless Bashar is willing to "roll the iron dice" (as German chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg put matters on the eve of World War I) and take the risk of scaling down his forces into small units and have them wage a kind of guerrilla warfare against the guerrillas. For their part, the rebels are just as unlikely to succeed in the near- or mid-term without either vastly improved armaments or outside intervention in the form of air support. Giving them more lethal weapons risks having them sent downstream to al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations.
And more overt military intervention risks conflict escalation, certainly with Iran, and possibly with Russia, which has a naval base in Syria and has expressed deep concern about the security of the Christian community there.
A stalemate. Which, in a caring world, would energize an innovative diplomatic approach, one that does not insist on Bashar's immediate removal, but does demand the safety, security, and gradually increasing liberty of the Syrian people...."