Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime faces the prospect of a long and slow defeat.
A number of rebel offensives over the past few weeks have forced his troops to retreat from large parts of the country. His regime is fighting for its life in the capital Damascus, and a collapse in confidence has triggered another round of high-level defections.
The armed rebels that emerged out of the revolution have become more organised. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) brigades have seized huge amounts of heavy weapons after overrunning a number of army bases.
Over the past month they launched a wave of offensives in the north and the east, as well as around the capital Damascus. Rebels have advanced in the west, ending any chance of a breakaway state in the regime’s heartlands.
The insurgency is gaining momentum. Over past few weeks tens of thousands of men have abandoned refugee camps in Jordan to join the growing rebel army in the south.
Assad’s supporters are isolated and surrounded. But his forces are still capable of enormous destruction. Over the weekend they overran a rebel stronghold in Homs, massacring over 200 people trapped in the city.
Despite their efforts Western powers and their Arab allies have not yet been able to hijack the revolution. The new Syrian National Coalition represents a broad alliance of exiles, defectors, local revolutionary committees and the rebel brigades.
The West hopes to do business with the coalition, but it has almost no influence over events on the ground. It is terrified by many of the radical Islamists groups now fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army.
The lack of outside support is shaping the debate over what will replace the regime. There is growing hunger and a severe winter in Syria. But despite the harsh conditions civilian revolutionary committees are taking control of many newly liberated areas.
They are organising among the tens of thousands living in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. These forces, which work alongside the rebel brigades, will be an enormous factor in post-war Syria.
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