Correspondents and analysts seem to be on the verge of declaring the demise of Butcher Assad. It’s not looking good for his embattled regime:
News reports quoted activists as saying fighting was raging in the southern suburbs of Damascus and near the international airport for a fifth straight day as government forces sought to dislodge rebels and reverse their recent gains.
It doesn’t seem the rebels can take Damascus by force. They are well equipped, but Assad can seal off the essential part of the capital, do his best to secure the airport road, and just hunker down.
Most dangerous, perhaps, are signs that Russia might throw Assad under the bus:
[On Monday] a senior Turkish official said that Russia had agreed to a new diplomatic approach to seek ways to persuade President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power, a possible weakening in Russia’s steadfast support for the government.
A Russian political analyst with contacts at the Foreign Ministry said that “people sent by the Russian leadership” who had contact with Mr. Assad two weeks ago described a man who has lost all hope of victory or escape.
“His mood is that he will be killed anyway,” Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of a Russian foreign affairs journal and the head of an influential policy group, said in an interview in Moscow, adding that only an “extremely bold” diplomatic proposal could possibly convince Mr. Assad that he could leave power and survive.
“If he will try to go, to leave, to exit, he will be killed by his own people,” Mr. Lukyanov said, speculating that security forces dominated by Mr. Assad’s minority Alawite sect would not let him depart and leave them to face revenge. “If he stays, he will be killed by his opponents. He is in a trap. It is not about Russia or anybody else. It is about his physical survival.”
Will Assad use chemical weapons against the rebels? Is he desperate enough? Is there any proposal from Russia or anyone else that would get him out of the country, and that he would accept?