Syrian President Bashar Assad’s speech on Sunday stating that he would crush
“terrorists” marked a boost to his self-confidence and the strengthening of his
beliefs that he will be able to defeat the Sunni-dominated opposition
Over the past few weeks, Assad’s forces have made advances on the
ground and with increasing infighting between various factions of the
opposition. With this in mind, Assad may be seeking to strike while the
opposition is down.
Perhaps just as important is the perception that the
US is not going to directly intervene in the conflict, but will maintain some
light support and training that will not be enough to change the momentum of the
fighting. The fact that, at least for now, US President Barack Obama has ignored
his own red line over the use of chemical weapons has not gone unnoticed in
In addition, fighting has broken out between the
al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front and Kurdish militias, thus distracting one of the
rebels’ most potent forces. A few weeks ago fighters allied to the Democratic
Union Party (PYD), the strongest local Kurdish group with its well-armed and
effective militias, captured a town from Nusra fighters. Days later, PYD leader
Saleh Muslim announced it would set up an independent council to run Kurdish
areas of Syria until the war ends.
Daily clashes have continued between
Kurds and Islamists across Syria’s northern areas and in the early hours on
Friday, PYD fighters killed 12 Islamist fighters in the northeastern province of
Hassake – which borders Turkey and Iraq – the Syrian Observatory for Human
Rights monitoring group said.
Marking this frustration, the Saudi-owned
Al-Arabiya news website ran an article by Abdul Wahab Badrakhan titled, “Assad
plays the Kurdish card,” implying that Assad is behind the Kurdish decision to
attack Syrian rebels.
“There’s no doubt that the regime wants to exploit
this experience and build upon it according to what serves its divisional
scheme,” wrote Badrakhan.
Another factor, which has coincided with the
turn in Assad regime’s favor, was the toppling of former Egyptian president
Mohamed Morsi last month, a staunch ally of the Islamist-dominated
Prof. Eyal Zisser – an expert on Syria at Tel Aviv
University’s Moshe Dayan Center – told The Jerusalem Post that the recent trend
of a “reversal” of the Arab revolutions also might influence the Syrian
situation, though he said it is too early to tell what will happen in this
With anti-Islamist forces resurgent in Tunisia and Libya as well,
the regional momentum for the Arab Spring seems to be
Concerning Assad’s speech, Zisser said that over the past
three years “all his speeches have been the same,” showing strong resolve and
seeking to boost the confidence of his supporters.
However, he noted that
on Sunday he spoke with “a little more confidence” as he “feels that the
opposition is not succeeding.”
Zisser, who has long argued that one of
the main limitations of the opposition was its lack of unity, reiterated that
the rebels are not led by one organization.
Yet, “they could still beat
him in the end,” he said, adding that the conflict is likely to linger on for
Reuters contributed to this report.
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!