Posted by Joshua on Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
Last year at this time, I argued that Assad would last until 2013 – Why the Assad Regime Will Likely Survive to 2013 – despite the many predictions that he was on the verge of falling in 2012. This year, I make a similar prediction that Assad will last until 2014. The reasons I give are outlined in the following two articles by Karon and Weaver, copied below.
Fred Hof’s article, excerpted below, is excellent. His worry that the Syrian opposition may fail to produce a convincing Syrian Nationalism or present a viable alternative to the narrow Assad “rule by clan and clique” is the real problem. Assad has perfected rule by traditional loyalties and patronage combined with fear and intimidation. The regime has survived for so long because Syrians have been unable to unify against it. Divide-and-rule has been the mainstay of this regime. So long as the opposition continues to squabble and Syrians remain deeply divided, and greater powers don’t intervene, the Assad regime will likely find a way to hang on. More importantly, as Fred Hof laments, “If in the end Syria is really akin to Lebanon in terms of the supremacy of sectarian identification, it is finished.”
Abdlhamid Haj Omar, 70, a father who lost three sons and two grandsons in the ongoing Syrian crisis, prays as he visits their graves at the Martyrs’ cemetery in Azaz city, North Aleppo, Dec. 25, 2012.
….The rebels and Western analysts advocating for more muscular intervention remain confident that the regime’s collapse is imminent, and are skeptical of calls for negotiation. “The regime appears to have only a few weeks left before it collapses,” said Washington Institute of Near East Policy analyst Jeffrey White in late December. “As the end nears, its allies may issue desperate pleas for a U.N.-brokered ceasefire, but the rebels see absolutely no advantage in that approach.”…
“Absent some dramatic increase in external intervention, Assad could still be there in 2014,” says Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma. “There’s nothing obvious in the current dynamic that’s going to force him out. He has barricaded the major cities with layers of security, allowing the impoverished periphery of some to fall into rebel hands, but then using his air power and artillery to devastate those neighborhoods. Almost two years into the uprising and despite the rebels’ recent momentum, they have not yet taken full control of a single major city or town. That’s a bad sign for the rebels.”
The sectarian character of the civil war has been underscored by Alawites — even many with grievances against the Assads — rallying behind a regime dominated by their minority sect for fear of their fate should the predominantly Sunni rebellion triumph. While opposition analysts predict that the regime will soon run out of money, rebel-controlled areas are even more starved of resources. And the regime, which still maintains an overwhelming advantage in weaponry, appears to be directing attacks in line with a strategy to exacerbate shortages of food and fuel in those areas, assuming that shortages and the competition for scarce resources will alienate the civilian population from the rebel fighters that control their areas — a dynamic that appears to be taking hold according to some reports from Aleppo and elsewhere…
“Despite the confident predictions coming from the rebels and their backers,” says Landis, “nobody in the opposition today can explain how they’re going to win. The regime has the unity, it has all the heavy weapons. Many of the rebels continue to operate on the assumption that the U.S. will intervene to tip the balance for them.”
But despite growing agitation by some in Washington for a more muscular U.S. role in helping topple Assad, there’s no sign that the Obama Administration, or any of the other Western powers, or key neighbors such as Turkey, are inclined as yet to assume the substantial risks involved in intervening to break Syria’s stalemate. And the rising death toll won’t likely change those calculations.
Assad to hang on till 2014
By Matthew Weaver – Guardian
Bashar al-Assad is likely to stay in power until 2014, according to Syrian watcher Joshua Landis, director of Centre for Middle East Studies at the Univesity of Oklahoma.
Many pundits predict that the Assad regime is nearing collapse and it is difficult to find any who think Assad will survive the year as president. But Landis, author of the widely-read blog Syria Comment, bucks the trend.
Asked to clarify remarks he made on Twitter earlier today about Assad’s prospects, Landis replied “Who is going to defeat him?”
He told the Guardian that rebels remain divided, under-funded and poorly equipped. He said:
Ethnic and sectarian divisions make victory difficult. Poverty hurts the regime, but also it hurts rebels, who are scavenging and beginning to cannibalize each other.
The Syrian army, by contrast remains cohesive, fully armed and with a clear command and control structure, Landis pointed out. It has also changed tactics to focus on protecting Damascus and the survival of the regime, Landis claimed.
It has learned it cannot control everything and has fallen back. The south and Damascus is much more difficult terrain for rebels than north and Aleppo.
Aleppo has been harder to defend because of its proximity to Turkey which offers rebels protection and short lines of retreat. “In the south [neighbouring countries:] Lebanon, Israel, Iraq and Jordan are all hostile to rebels and do not allow them refuge, comfort and resupply,” Landis said.
Landis also pointed out that international community remains divided over how to tackle the crisis. The US is concerned about supporting al-Qaida-linked groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra which is leading the fight against the Syrian government in many areas and which the US proscribed as terrorist organisation.
“The US has few interests in Syria and every incentive to stay out,” Landis said.
And the main regional opponents of the Assad government – Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – lack a co-ordinated approach and have not always worked in concert.
Syria 2013: Will The Poison Pill of Sectarianism Work?
Frederic C. Hof | January 03, 2013
At the dawn of the New Year President Bashar al-Assad and his regime remain committed to pursuing a corrosively destructive sectarian survival strategy, one enjoying a critical assist from an increasingly radicalized and politically directionless armed opposition. Left to their own devices—as both the West and Russia seemed inclined to leave them—the regime and its armed opponents seem poised to devote 2013 to putting Syria on an irreversible course to state failure and perpetual sectarian conflict….
By raising and unleashing shabiha auxiliaries (largely poor Alawite youth supplemented by active duty military personnel), the regime of Bashar al-Assad injected the poison pill into the national bloodstream. By sending these gangs into Sunni Arab villages to murder, loot, and rape, the regime consciously sought three results: to terrorize its opponents into submission; to make the conflict explicitly sectarian in nature; and to implicate the very community into which its leaders were born (but from which they had long since seceded socially and economically) in the commission of grotesque, politically motivated criminal acts.
It appears that the regime is succeeding in two of the three outcomes sought by the induced ingestion of poison….
Assad and his cohort are, after all, eager to tell minorities (especially Alawites and Christians) that the current regime alone stands between them and a Sunni Arab successor that might choose among options ranging from explicit sectarian rule to the application of Islamic law to expulsion and slaughter. …
Some regime opponents insist that the pill has had little effect, and that the opposition (armed and not) remains overwhelmingly committed to a Syria of citizenship, one permitting no civil distinction among Sunni, Alawite, Christian, Kurd, Ismaili, Turkman, Druze and so forth. One hopes they are accurate and truthful, and not merely trying to appeal to the sensibilities of Americans who perhaps do not understand how the world really works (at least in Syria). And yet how many members of Syrian minorities—fully one-third of the country’s population—accept these proffered reassurances? Probably no more than a handful do. And why should they? What would weigh heavier on the brain of a non-Sunni Arab (or a Sunni Arab committed to secular governance): the occasional word about the primacy of citizenship, or the televised chanting of hirsute warriors and the exaltation by the Nusra Front in reaction to the fully justified (if ill-timed) U.S. designation of the group as terrorist?
In sum, the Assad regime has hijacked the Alawite community and large components of other minorities, holding them hostage to the survival of rule by clan and clique. This hijacking and hostage-taking has occurred in the context of a regime survival plan whose origins date back more than 40 years. The success of the plan—the effects of the poison pill—depends largely on the manner in which opponents of the regime react.
If in the end Syria is nothing but a surviving fragment of its Ottoman predecessor—a collection of confessions that have coexisted only under the iron hand of a sultan—then the poison pill will likely be fatally irresistible. If in the end Syria is really akin to Lebanon in terms of the supremacy of sectarian identification, it is finished. ….
ALEPPO, Syria — Japanese trucker Toshifumi Fujimoto is bored with his humdrum job, a daily run from Osaka to Tokyo or Nagasaki hauling tanker loads of gasoline, water or even chocolate.
Yet while the stocky, bearded 45-year-old could spend his free time getting a jolt of adrenaline by bungee-jumping or shark hunting, he puts his life on the line in a most unusual way.
He’s become a war tourist.
Fujimoto’s passion has taken him from the dull routine of the highway to Syria, where as part of his latest adventure in the Middle East’s hot spots he shoots photos and video while dodging bullets with zest.
He was in Yemen last year during demonstrations at the US embassy and in Cairo a year earlier, during the heady days that followed the ouster of longtime president Hosni Mubarak. Later this year, he plans to hook up with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
But for the moment, he is wrapping up a week’s tour of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, which for going on six months has been one of the hottest spots in a conflict that has cost more than 60,000 lives, according to UN figures.
He already spent two weeks in the war-torn country at the end of 2011, taking advantage of a tourist visa, but this time he has entered the country clandestinely from Turkey…..
Fujimoto is divorced, and says “I have no family, no friends, no girl friend. I am alone in life.”
But he does have three daughters, whom he hasn’t seen for five years, “not even on Facebook or the Internet, nothing. And that saddens me deeply,” he said as he wiped away a tear.
So he’s bought a life insurance policy, and “I pray every day that, if something happens to me, my girls might collect the insurance money and be able to live comfortably.”….
No Settlement In Damascus, The Danger of a Negotiated Peace
Bilal Y. Saab and Andrew J. Tabler, January 2, 2013 – Foreign Policy
Simply calling on the Sunnis and Alawites to give up their guns won’t work…..