The situation in Syria is looking more and more like the end game for Bashar al-Assad. Even Russian President Putin has been heard to say "Bashar who?"
The problem is that it looks like he is trying to kill as many Syrians as he can before he goes. He is wildly firing off unguided Scud missiles at his own country and has been using all manners of death dealing weapons, everything short of chemical weapons, against civilian targets.
The articles below the fold deal with some of this. What they don't deal with is the growing refugee crisis with as many as a million refugees leaving Syria or the critical situation with regards to food, shelter, heat and basic services for millions more still stuck in the war zone that most of Syria has become.
From the Strategy Page today we have this assessment of the poor prospects for the Assad regime:
The Deathwatch Phase
December 21, 2012: The Syrian rebellion is now in its deathwatch phase. The government is doomed and its forces grow weaker every day. Its only a matter of time before the government losses control of the entire country and surviving officials flee for sanctuary. Allies (Iran, Russia, China) have been quietly offering refuge to Assad and his senior aides. President Basher Assad keeps making public announcements that he has no intention of leaving. The same cant be said about the several thousand senior officials he depends on to control the country. Many of these people have committed known criminal acts over the decades and have to fear rebel retribution if they are still in Syria when the rebels win. Many of these officials have already sent their families into exile and when these army and government leaders join their families in large numbers, youll know its the end. That is expected to happen within the next few months, or weeks.
At the moment the government is calling more and more of its most reliable troops back to Damascus to defend the capital. Despite weeks of government air and ground attacks, rebel gunmen and Islamic terrorists continue to operate inside Damascus. You can hear the gunfire and explosions from downtown where the ministries and major business headquarters are located. The second largest city (after Damascus), Aleppo, is almost completely under rebel control. That includes dozens of military bases, and most of the weapons and munitions stored there. The government troops have died, been captured, deserted or, most frequently been moved to another part of the country.
The big fear in the West is that Assad may turn his chemical weapons (especially the nerve gas) over to Hezbollah or these weapons may be seized by rebel groups that are also Islamic terrorists intent on attacking the West and Israel. Hezbollah, as a creation of Iran (in the 1980s) could have gotten nerve gas from Iran at any time since then. But that stuff, if used, could be traced back to Iran with dire consequences for Iran. The Syrian stuff, created by a Syrian dictator recently removed from power, would be another matter. In any event, this is not a huge deal as nerve gas is vastly overrated as a terrorist (or military) weapon.
A more immediate problem for the victorious rebels is getting the economy going again. Many key officials (business owners and government officials) who took care of that will be gone after the rebel victory. As was discovered in Libya, putting the economy and government back together is not easy. The same can be said about restoring law and order. As in Libya, Syria will have dozens of major militias, and hundreds of smaller ones, all making demands on the new government and threatening violence if they dont get their way. Rebel leaders, while still on speaking terms with each other, are already trying to work out the rules for a post-Assad Syria. More...
Also today, Vivienne Walt addressed one of the main reasons Assad's fight might be coming to an end in Time World:
Assads Cash Problem: Will Syrias Dwindling Reserves Bring Down the Regime?
With more than 40,000 people killed in Syrias devastating war, and about three million people driven from their homes, Western and Arab leaders are grappling with one question: How and when does all this end? The answer, say some, might lie not in the horrific bloodshed but in a simpler factor: money. Economists say President Bashar Assads regime has effectively gone broke, and is running out of ways to raise revenues and keep most of its soldiers properly fed and paid. The economy is the basis of everything, says Samir Seifan, a prominent Syrian economist who fled last year. He spoke by phone from Dubai. Without services, boots, money, you cannot do anything. If the government cannot finance the army, they [soldiers] will simply go away.
That tipping point, in which the government faces all-out financial collapse, seems to be drawing nearbetween three to six months from now, according to the calculations of Seifan and others who have examined Syrias finances. Already, Assad has abandoned about 40% of the countrys territory to rebel forces, withdrawing his troops from the ground while his jets continue aerial bombing, apparently because the army is too thinly stretched to defend both rural areas and the government-held pockets of Damascus and Syrias most populous city, Aleppo. And while Assad appears still to have considerable resources in Damascus, the economic indicators suggest his country is in free-fall, and that he has little way to generate fresh cashat least not without appeals to allies. More...
The NY Times reported yesterday about how Assad has now simply adopted the policy of slaughtering as many civilians as he can without crossing Obama's red-line by using chemical weapons:
Syria Unleashes Cluster Bombs on Town, Punishing Civilians
By C. J. CHIVERS
Published: December 20, 2012
MAREA, Syria The plane came in from the southeast late in the afternoon, releasing its weapons in a single pass. Within seconds, scores of finned bomblets struck and exploded on the homes and narrow streets of this small Syrian town.
After the screams and the desperate gathering of the victims, the staff at the local Freedom Hospital counted 4 dead and 23 wounded. All were civilians, doctors and residents said.
Many forms of violence and hardship have befallen Syrias people as the countrys civil war has escalated this year. But the Syrian governments attack here on Dec. 12 pointed to one of the wars irrefutable patterns: the deliberate targeting of civilians by President Bashar al-Assads military, in this case with a weapon that is impossible to use precisely.
Syrians on both sides in this fight have suffered from the bloodshed and sectarian furies given dark license by the war. The victims of the cluster bomb attacks describe the tactic as collective punishment, a mass reprisal against populations that are with the rebels. More...
Here are my related diaries on Syria:
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Does what Obama said at Newtown apply to Syria?
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BREAKING: Obama recognizes opposition in Syria
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General Meade at Gettysburg
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UPDATED: Syrian prime minister defects
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BREAKING: UN votes to condemn Assad Regime as Reuters posts false story on Syria
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ALEPPO: Step outside the Matrix and witness the Horror
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Bashar al-Assad: New images released as slaughter continues in Syria
no blood for oil
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