By most accounts, Hezbollah’s large-scale intervention combined with unending supplies of weapons and advisors from Iran and Russia have helped Assad turn the tide against the rebels.

Until that intervention, and even in the initial weeks, it looked like the rebels would hold on in Qusayr after inflicting heavy casualties, but as of this writing the situation seems dire.  The rebels are stronger in other parts of the country, but clearly the sense is that something has changed.

It might be slightly premature to say the hope of replacing Assad is lost, but things are heading in that direction in key parts of the country:

But if blame must be placed, Michael Young of the Daily Star of Lebanon sees a combination of rebel in-fighting and Obama/Western dithering as the culprits, The slow suicide of Syria’s opposition:

We are near the stage where the Syrian opposition, thanks to an effective campaign by the Syrian regime and its allies, but also a pervasive lack of unity or direction, may lose much of the support it needs to defeat President Bashar  Assad’s regime….

Russia and the United States are going to Geneva [peace talks] with very  different agendas, none of which favors Assad’s adversaries. For the Obama  administration, Geneva provides an opportunity to begin a political process  permitting America to evade a larger role in Syria. President Barack Obama  had feared being pushed  into such a role after reports came out that the Syrian regime used chemical  weapons against the rebels, crossing Obama’s red lines for American  intervention. The president sent Secretary of State John Kerry to Moscow and the  accord over a conference bought Obama time to stay clear of Syria.

In other words, the Obama administration is going to Geneva largely to avoid  Syria….

Russia, with a far clearer sense of what it wants in Syria, has another aim  in Geneva: to consolidate Assad rule and put in motion a negotiating process  that, at least temporarily, curbs the violence and divides the opposition. By  helping Assad mount a successful offensive in the area around Qusair and reverse rebel gains near Damascus, the Russians have reinforced the Syrian president’s  position, making it highly improbable that Geneva will seriously broach the  matter of Assad’s departure from power.

The rebels seem to sense that Geneva will be a sell-out to Assad backed by the West, and are using the siege of Qusayr as a reason not to attend, for now (via Al-Jazeera):

Syria’s opposition will not participate in proposed international peace talks in Geneva next month, its leader has said.

George Sabra, the head of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), on Thursday said the opposition was suspending their participation until the international community intervened to end the siege in Qusayr, a town in Homs province near the Lebanese border.

“The National Coalition will not take part in any international conference or any such efforts so long as the militias of Iran and Hezbollah continue their invasion of Syria,” Sabra told reporters in Istanbul.

Young also points out that Western dithering helped create an opening for al-Qaeda groups:

The Syrian opposition cannot be blamed for the shameful American performance  in Syria, but it can be blamed for failing to consider possible post-Geneva  outcomes. Nor has it adequately addressed the very real doubts that have emerged  over the participation in the Syrian uprising of the Nusra Front, an affiliate  of Al-Qaeda. The fact is that there are profound doubts that the opposition can  fill the vacuum in Syria if Assad goes, which can only favor jihadist  groups.

No one in the West, particularly the U.S., much cares that it was Western  indecision over Syria that created an opening for the militant Islamists.

All-in-all, a combination of factors likely have resulted in no good outcomes.  Either Assad hangs on and is emboldened by a tight alliance with Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, or the rebels win with a likely Islamist presence at least to some extent.

Unless something changes, it’s bad or worse in Syria.


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