Thursday, April 10, 2014

Time for another kind of Syrian opposition: "the time when Assad might have been defeated by a truly inept opposition leadership and fragmented rebel movement has passed."

"... In fact, on balance, the cumulative effect of trends since fall 2013 favors the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The regime remains far from achieving an all-out military victory, and it may never do so. The gains it is making are slow, costly, and often tentative, vulnerable to reversal. But if present trends continue—and there really is little to suggest they will not—then the regime will be in a dominant position and in effective control of a critical mass of the country by the end of 2015, if not sooner. ... If an election is held and Assad is voted into office again, the regime will not have secured a significant or lasting victory even if, as some Western diplomats privately believe, he would win in a genuinely free contest and not just in a stage-managed poll. The regime will inevitably face new tensions and challenges as it stabilizes its situation and consolidates its military grip, as those who have fought for it make demands that were postponed at the height of the armed conflict. 
This can only pit some of the regime’s core constituencies (including sections of the Alawi community that provided combat manpower and suffered horrendous casualties, the army more generally, and many in the state bureaucracy and Baath Party) against others (including members and cronies of the Assad family, and a new breed of pro-regime warlords)... C These kinds of protests and social demands from within Assad’s own ranks will pose a challenge that cannot be answered with brute force, unlike the challenge presented by the armed rebellion. But it will also be enormously difficult to defuse dissent through stepped-up government spending, given the need to gradually wind down the war economy and shift from fiscal policies geared toward survival back to public investment. This is not to mention the need to cover the costs of reconstruction in urban areas that are politically important for the regime, secure the repatriation of Syrian flight capital, attract businessmen through favorable policies and incentives, and, eventually, pay off a massive war debt. 
It may be years before an opposition like this one, based partly on former regime loyalists, can cross the deep divide left by the sectarian legacy of the Syrian conflict. There is no assurance that it will emerge, nor of the form and direction it may take. Unfortunately, the National Coalition is no closer today than at any time past to being politically able or willing to offer engagement on terms that may be regarded as credible by regime supporters should the opportunity arise.....But the time when Assad might have been defeated by a truly inept opposition leadership and fragmented rebel movement has passed."

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