News / Middle East

Analysts Weigh In on Longevity of Syria's Assad

Free Syrian Army fighters pose on a tank after they said they fought and defeated government troops from the town of Ras al-Ain, near the province of Hasaka, 600 kilometers from Damascus, November 22, 2012.Free Syrian Army fighters pose on a tank after they said they fought and defeated government troops from the town of Ras al-Ain, near the province of Hasaka, 600 kilometers from Damascus, November 22, 2012.
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Free Syrian Army fighters pose on a tank after they said they fought and defeated government troops from the town of Ras al-Ain, near the province of Hasaka, 600 kilometers from Damascus, November 22, 2012.
Free Syrian Army fighters pose on a tank after they said they fought and defeated government troops from the town of Ras al-Ain, near the province of Hasaka, 600 kilometers from Damascus, November 22, 2012.
Edward Yeranian
— The Syrian conflict is now in its 20th month and Syrian rights activists say more than 40,000 people have been killed there since the uprising began. The embattled government of President Bashar al Assad appears to be on the defensive, having lost a number of military bases recently. Some analysts view these developments as a sign that the fall of his government is not far off, while others see a stalemate and a protracted conflict.

New amateur video shows a group of rebel fighters capturing an artillery base in the eastern desert province of Deir ez Zor. Rebels and Syrian rights activists say the Mayadeen military base and the surrounding countryside are under rebel control Thursday after days of fighting.

Rami Abdel Rahman of the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the capture of the artillery base puts large swathes of eastern Syria out of government control.

  • General view of damaged buildings after a Syrian Air Force fighter jet fired missiles at Daria near Damascus, Syria, November 23, 2012.
  • A Syrian man walks in front of his house during heavy rain in the northern Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, as seen from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, November 23, 2012.
  • Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain as gunfire is heard, as seen from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, November 22, 2012.
  • Members of the Free Syrian Army in the northern Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, as seen from Turkey's Sanliurfa province, November 22, 2012.
  • Syrian refugees in the northern Syrian town Ras al-Ain run to cross the border fence into Turkey during gunfire, as seen from Turkey's Sanliurfa province, November 22, 2012.
  • This Shaam news network image shows residents carrying the bodies of men activists say were killed during shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, Damascus, Syria, November 22, 2012.
  • Syrian army soldier prisoners stand near ammunition after Syrian fighters took over the military base in Aleppo, November 19, 2012.
  • Syrian fighters stand guard in front of a destroyed building at a military base they took over from the Syrian army in Aleppo, November 19, 2012.
  • A girl sits on a railway track as she looks to cross the border fence from Ras al-Ain into Turkey, November 20, 2012.
  • Turkish soldiers take up position at the border town of Ceylanpinar, Turkey, November 20, 2012.
  • Residents walk near buildings damaged after shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, near Damascus, November 19, 2012.
  • Syrian fighters celebrate the victory on top of a tank they took after storming a military base in Aleppo, November 19, 2012.
  • A rebel fighter prepares to fire a homemade rocket towards a Syrian air force compound on the outskirts of Aleppo, November 17, 2012.

Claiming territory

He said that rebel fighters gained control of the artillery battalion in Mayideen after a three-week siege of government soldiers. This, he said, gives the rebels large chunks of territory east of the Iraqi border.

Rebel fighters also recently captured an anti-aircraft defense base in southern Damascus, as well as an artillery battalion near Aleppo. The rebels, however, failed in their attempt to capture an air base in Aleppo province after heavy government aerial bombing.

Abdel Rahman said battlelines inside Syria's commercial hub city of Aleppo remain static, despite ongoing clashes between rebels and government troops in a number of places.

Workers in Aleppo clear rubble from a collapsed building after government warplanes bombed it. Witnesses say the collapsed building is adjacent to one of the few remaining medical clinics, forcing it to shut down.

Nasty offensive

The Syrian government defends its actions by saying it is fighting terrorists.

But opposition leaders and human rights groups accuse the government of deliberately targeting hospitals and bakeries. The International Committee of the Red Cross also accuses the government of preventing aid supplies from reaching large parts of the country.

Humanitarian groups say the conflict has displaced more than million people inside Syria, while three quarters of a million have sought refuge in neighboring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

As civilians continue to suffer from the long-running conflict, some analysts, like Hilal Khashan at the American University of Beirut, think that the government's position is eroding quickly.

Varying assessments

In an email to VOA he wrote that the Assad regime "is losing ground on all fronts" and that "the small core of supporters around the president has chosen to fight to the bitter end." He said the regime is beyond its tipping point and that the "countdown toward its demise has already gone a significant way."

Analyst Nadim Shehadi of Chatham House in London, however, thinks the military situation in Syria remains a stalemate, but argues that waiting for one side to triumph is dangerous.

"I don't think that it's wise to wait for a military victory on either side. The longer this goes on, the worse things are and the more difficult the transition will be later, and the more difficult it will be for Syria to recover from this," said Shehadi.

Shehadi believes the international community needs to do more to support the newly formed Syrian opposition council in order to prevent extremists from gaining ground inside the country. "The longer this [conflict] goes on," he said, "the more extremists will be empowered and play a [larger] role."

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Dolly from: tLkSrfinDhyAoORkV
November 28, 2012 7:42 PM
Intelligence and sipmliicty - easy to understand how you think.


by: Anonymous
November 25, 2012 1:35 PM
Once it is determined where exactly Assad is hiding, then the war will be coming to an end. If Assad is such a brave boy, why doesn't he announce where he is located?


by: John George
November 24, 2012 4:15 PM
why, and i do't understand, isn't syria's president being charged for war crimes against his own people? he's going to lose, the opposition is getting stinger and stronger, but i still want to know about him not being charged! you charge anyone else with war crimes but bit him? something is very wrong!


by: John-Albert Eadie from: Canada
November 24, 2012 12:04 PM
Voice of America - how long has Assad got = Voice of Vultures.

In Response

by: Anonymous
November 25, 2012 1:34 PM
Everyone knows it could be anytime, as soon as the people of Syria find Assad in his hiding spot. Then will be judgement day.


by: Jethro Mayham
November 24, 2012 1:27 AM
40k in 20 months is so small to speak of. In mother Russia, we lost that many patriots in a single day. And we still under estimated what our casualties would have been the previous night.

We were so happy we drank Vodka and celebrate.
Joe Stalin

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