July 26, 2013
With bitter fighting continuing to afflict large tracts of Syria and an estimated 5,000 people losing their lives each month, predicting the outcome of the country’s brutal civil war might appear somewhat premature. And yet, for all the sacrifices made by rebel fighters during the past two years, the likelihood that the conflict will end with President Bashar al-Assad still clinging to power in Damascus grows stronger by the day.
The resilience of the Assad clan in withstanding the rebels’ desperate attempts to end its 50-year domination of Syria’s political landscape has taken most Western leaders by surprise. This time last year the White House confidently predicted that the regime could only survive for a few more weeks after the president’s brother-in-law and the Syrian defence minister were killed in a bomb attack against the country’s national security headquarters.
On reflection, though, that event seems to have been the turning point in the revival of the regime’s fortunes, not least because it persuaded Iran to take urgent action to prevent its long-standing regional ally from biting the dust. Teams of Revolutionary Guard officers were dispatched to Damascus to turn Syrian loyalists into competent fighters, while Hizbollah, the Iranian-controlled militia based in southern Lebanon, was ordered to send experienced combatants to reinforce the president’s cause.