The last option for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is determined not to back down after 21 months of deadly conflict, is to battle to the end from a fortified Alawite statelet, analysts believe.
Driven from large swathes of territory in the north and east by rebels, the army is now focused on maintaining its grip on the key axis stretching from Damascus to the central province of Homs and on to the coastal Alawite heartland.
The embattled al-Assad will “cling to power until the end, even if it means more massacres,” Middle East analyst Agnes Levallois said of the prolonged crackdown and fighting that the UN says has left more than 60,000 dead.
“The longer he hangs on, the more assured he becomes of his ability to stay in power ... not through retaking the whole country, but by holding onto Damascus, the key junction of Homs Province and the route to the Alawite mountains,” she said.
“Bashar’s [al-Assad’s] options are to stay put in Damascus and try to retake areas lost ... or perhaps a reconstituted Alawite-dominated area on the Syrian coast,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy analyst Andrew Tabler said.
“The regime will be forced out of the north and east soon, although it seems at a terrible price ... with more artillery and missiles, and the threat of chemical weapons,” Tabler said.
The regime has since the middle of last year claimed to be launching its final crackdown on rebels in the Damascus suburbs.
Levallois said al-Assad “still has the ability to control Damascus for months before considering the option of the Alawite region,” a coastal stronghold of his co-religionists from the offshoot branch of Shiite Islam.
It is an open secret, Syrians and analysts said, that the army had arsenals throughout the Alawite mountains between the coastal cities of Latakia and Tartus, long before the outbreak of the uprising in mid-March 2011.
These arms depots have not yet been used by the about 120,000 troops still loyal to Damascus, analysts say.
With these strengths, “al-Assad is not considering dialogue because he feels — wrongly of course — that he can win and that he still has the resources to reject negotiations on his departure,” Levallois said.
She believes that al-Assad is squandering his chances to leave on his own terms.
“He could have capitalized on [UN and Arab League peace envoy] Lakhdar Brahimi’s visit to Damascus and the openings by the Russians to explore the possibility for dialogue. Instead, he resorted to even greater violence,” she said.
“If al-Assad refuses the Brahimi initiative, it means he is really living in a total bubble, cut off from the world with zero sense of reality, or thinks that forces on the ground can still ensure his survival,” Levallois said.
On the heels of a flurry of diplomacy, including trips to key Damascus ally Moscow, Brahimi announced a proposal to end the conflict in Syria through a ceasefire, the formation of a new government and elections.
However, the plan did not specify the fate of al-Assad, whose departure is a given for the Syrian opposition before any national dialogue can take place.
International Crisis Group Syria specialist Peter Harling, a at the, said the al-Assad regime has stuck to the same logic since the crisis began.
“He believes he is defending himself, and by extension Syria, against an aggression that leaves him no other option,” Harling said.
It follows that the violence is not al-Assad’s fault, but the product of a conspiracy, for which there is a solution.
“That solution will not come from him, but from his enemies, who will at some point realize that the price of change is too high and abandon their undertaking,” Harling said.
THE ANSWER? The drug uses neutralizing antibodies produced by the human immune system, which the team isolated from the blood of 60 recovered patients A Chinese laboratory has been developing a drug it believes has the power to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to a halt. A drug being tested by scientists at Peking University could not only shorten the recovery time for those infected, but even offer short-term immunity from the coronavirus, researchers said. Sunney Xie (謝曉亮), director of the university’s Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics, said that the drug had been successful in animal testing. “When we injected neutralizing antibodies into infected mice, after five days the viral load was reduced by a factor of 2,500,” Xie said. “That means this potential drug has [a]
‘SERIOUS QUESTIONS’: Three US senators sent a letter to the US commerce secretary asking whether the project ‘takes into consideration national security requirements’ US Senator Chuck Schumer and two other Democratic colleagues have written to top US administration officials asking for details of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd’s (TSMC) plan to build a US$12 billion fab in Arizona. Hsinchu-based TSMC on Thursday last week announced that it would build a plant to make 5 nanometer chips by 2024 that would have the capacity to produce 20,000 semiconductor wafers per month. The world’s biggest contract chipmaker already has one chipmaking fab in Camas, Washington, and design centers in Austin, Texas, and San Jose, California. It said it planned to start construction in Arizona next year and
VULNERABLE: Many women do not report sexual harassment by their landlord over fears they could lose the roof over their head, an expert said A growing number of landlords are asking tenants for sex in exchange for housing as COVID-19 lockdowns and job cuts have left many struggling to pay their rent, housing experts said. A survey by the National Fair Housing Alliance of more than 100 fair housing groups combating discrimination across the US found that 13 percent had seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints during the pandemic. “If I did not have sex with him, he was going to put me out,” one woman facing eviction by her property manager told the alliance in an podcast on its Web site. “As a single
MOM’S LONG CAMPAIGN: Mao Yin had been brought up in Mianyang, Sichuan Province, without any idea that he was the target of a decades-long, high-profile search A Chinese man who was stolen from his family as a toddler has been reunited with his parents after 32 years. Mao Yin (毛寅), then two-and-a-half years old, was snatched in 1988 when he was walking home from nursery with his father. His parents finally embraced him again on Monday in Xian, where he was born. After Mao vanished, his mother Li Jingzhi (李靜芝) quit her job and launched a decades-long search for her son, that included sending out more than 100,000 flyers and appearing on numerous TV shows. That long campaign helped 29 other families find their own missing children and made