Syria: Has the Assad Regime Reached the Terminal Phase?

(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah - Before burying the Assad regime and prophesizing that it is only a matter of days or weeks before Assad disappears, it is essential to understand the reasons for his survival until now. Forty years of Alawite dominance in Syrian politics have created strong bonds and coalitions between the Alawite ruling elite and political forces which see their fate linked to the demise of Assad, such as the Christian, Druze, and Assyrian minorities as well as some Sunnite elites. President Bashar Assad's inner circle, led by his brother, Maher, commander of the Syrian Army's Fourth Division, along with some of the Alawite elites, strongly believe that the regime should keep on fighting. Among the senior Alawite officers there is an understanding that if Assad goes, there will be a bloodbath against the Alawites. This group is pressing Assad to fight on. Working in favor of the regime's survival are the divisions within the opposition. As much as two-thirds of the forces of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are considered to be Islamic jihadists who are striving to establish an Islamic state in Syria. The FSA behaves as a guerilla force. Most of its brigades number no more than 300 combatants, which is the largest field formation they have succeeded in deploying on the ground. Since the beginning of the conflict, support of the Assad regime by Russia and China has served as an active shield against all attempts by the West to force a political solution on Syria through a decision by the UN Security Council, similar to the ones in Kosovo, Libya, and Afghanistan. Iran and Hizbullah have been providing the Syrian regime with assistance to quell the rebellion. Iran has mainly provided intelligence tools and equipment, while Hizbullah has sent its troops into Syrian territory in the Homs area, opposite northeastern Lebanon. These two allies understand that the Tehran-Syria-Hizbullah axis is at stake, and they are doing everything in their power to maintain Assad's position. The writer was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.

2012-12-27 00:00:00

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