[Reuters] “… Recent visitors say the 47-year-old president has taken over day-to-day leadership. They speak of a self-confident, combative president convinced he will ultimately win the conflict through military means.“He is no longer a president who depends on his team and directs through his aides. This is a fundamental change in Assad’s thinking,” said a pro-Syrian Lebanese politician with close ties to Assad. “Now he is involved in directing the battle.”
Until recently, the Lebanese politician said, people asked daily who would defect next. But for some time now there had been no significant military defections.
“The fighting nerve is steady. The Iranians and the Russians may have helped them. Their ability to manage daily and control the situation has improved.”
The government has decided to focus its effort on essential areas – the capital Damascus, the second largest city of Aleppo, and the main highways and roads….
“Everybody is kind of hypnotized by the issue of whether Bashar is president or not, whether he is leaving or not,” said one Arab official. “I fear the problem is much bigger than that. The problem is to see how Syria is going to survive, how the new Syria is going to be born.”….
The rebels have so far failed to sustain gains in the face of superior government firepower. They have lost many bases that they had won in the suburbs of Damascus and elsewhere. Frustrated, they seem to have switched tactics to suicide bombings and hit-and-run attacks.
“Militarily the regime is more relaxed but from a security position the country is falling apart,” said the pro-Syrian politician.”An explosion might happen anywhere, an assassination might happen, the situation is chaotic and out of control.”……
Hopes for the Brahimi mission are dim given that arms and funds are still flowing to rebel groups, while Assad’s forces are still getting Russian and Iranian support.
“The Russians and the Iranians are even more robust. They support them with funds and political support and technical expertise,” said the Lebanese politician.
Despite a collapse in revenues, a halt in oil sales and tourism income, and a fall in the value of the national currency, the economy has so far avoided meltdown. But this may only be a temporary respite for a government spending heavily on its military campaign. Support from Iran, its own currency collapsing, cannot be relied on indefinitely and the Syrian government’s capacity to withstand economic headwinds is diminishing.
“The following five or six months will be essential in the battle and not like the past four or five months that have passed. The Americans would have completed their election, the Russians will have evolved their position and the situation in Iran will have crystallized,” the Lebanese politician said.
“Until now, the Arabs have not changed their position, the Americans don’t want to be decisive and the Russians haven’t seen one factor that makes them back track one iota from their position. For the Russians, the matter is bigger than a naval base in Tartous, they can secure it through negotiations, it is about their role in the region.”