Washington: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is still confident that he can ride out the maelstrom engulfing his country, according to Syrians familiar with the thinking of the regime.
According to the Washington Post, it is hard to imagine Assad ever being in a position to restore his authority over the many parts of Syria that have slipped beyond his control.
Analysts said that the rebels seeking to topple him have steadily been gaining ground, most recently seizing control of a strategically important airbase in the north of the country, and if the current trajectory continues, the eventual demise of the four-decade-old Assad family regime seems all but inevitable, the report said.
But concerns are growing about how long that might take, and at what cost, prompting many Syrians to question whether Assad’s confidence might not be merited, given the realities of a conflict so brutally complex and so entangled in global geopolitical rivalries that there is still no clearly identifiable endgame in sight nearly two years after the uprising began, the report added.
According to the report, when Assad delivered a defiantly uncompromising speech to supporters last week, the State Department condemned him for being ‘out of touch with reality’.
Defections from Assad’s government have been few and far between. The rebels have been systematically overrunning government positions in many locations, but they have not demonstrated the capacity to make headway against the tough defenses ringing Damascus, the capital, and the key prize for whoever claims to control the country.
His allies Russia and Iran have shown no sign that their support is wavering, and they have their own reasons not to cede ground in the struggle for influence over a country whose strategic location puts it at the crossroads of multiple regional conflicts, the report said.
On Saturday, the Russian Foreign Ministry reiterated its view that Assad’s departure should not be part of any negotiated settlement, the report added.
According to the report, above all, Syrians said that Assad remains convinced that neither the United States nor its allies will intervene militarily to help the rebels overrun his forces entirely. That conviction has been buoyed by indications of growing US concern at the expanding role of Islamist extremists in the already-fragmented rebel army.
According to one Damascus resident who speaks regularly to members of the regime, Assad frequently boasts that Western countries won’t dare intervene in Syria, as they did in Libya.
That confidence has only grown as the Syrian army has escalated its use of force to include airstrikes and ballistic missiles without drawing any significant international response, a Syrian spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fears of safety, the report added.
Assad may also have little choice but to continue trying to crush the revolt. The 2 million or so members of the Alawite community on which he has come to depend for his survival fear annihilation should the overwhelmingly Sunni rebel force win, Joshua Landis, a history professor at the University of Oklahoma who is married to an Alawite and remains in regular touch with the community, said.
He said that events such as an assassination or a coup could yet hasten Assad’s end in unexpected ways, the report added.