Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The regime digs in: President Bashar Assad and his forces have won a new lease of life

    Wednesday, June 19, 2013   No comments

“YA GHALI,” says a driver greeting the soldier manning a checkpoint of concrete blocks painted with the Syrian flag and plastered with pictures of Bashar Assad in regime-controlled central Damascus. This salutation was never in use in the capital before the war but is now standard at checkpoints. “Ghali”, or precious, is used in the coastal homeland of the Alawites, the sect from which Mr Assad hails. It is a sign both that the president is in control here and that, for all its talk of a state for all of Syria’s communities, his regime has been largely reduced to a sectarian militia, though the most powerful in the country.

This may be a harbinger of the future. The balance of power between the regime and the rebels has ebbed and flowed during the 27-month conflict, but the government’s recapture of the town of Qusayr from the rebels on June 5th has reinforced a feeling that Mr Assad has recently won the advantage. Rebels still control swathes of the north and east of the country and continue to clash with the regime in the countryside around the main population hubs of the west: Damascus, Homs and Hama. But nearly all the city centres are tightly in Mr Assad’s grip. In his determination to assert control, he has shown willing, if need be, to reduce rebellious towns to rubble.


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