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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.
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.

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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