Many were expecting the collapse of the Assad-regime in the near future, but Syria-watcher Joshua Landis is of a different opinion. While the UN released new, shocking casualty figures - some 60.000 in two years - Landis predicted that Assad may hold out well into 2014:
“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.”
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.
Meanwhile the UN released a new study into the casualties in Syria. U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said in Geneva that researchers cross-referencing seven sources over five months of analysis had listed 59,648 people killed in Syria between March 15, 2011 and November 30, 2012. "The number of casualties is much higher than we expected and is truly shocking," she said. "Given that there has been no let-up in the conflict since the end of November, we can assume that more than 60,000 people have been killed by the beginning of 2013."
And no, no end in sight.