OSLO - It is just a matter of time before the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad falls because its use of massive force is mobilizing insurgents, General Robert Mood, the former head of the UN monitoring mission in Syria, said on Friday.
"In my opinion it is only a matter of time before a regime that is using such heavy military power and disproportional violence against the civilian population is going to fall," the Norwegian general, who left Damascus on July 19, told Reuters.
"Every time there are 15 people killed in a village, 500 additional sympathizers are mobilized, roughly 100 of whom are fighters," Mood said.
However, the authoritarian Syrian leader is probably secure in the short term because he has the military capability to hold off the rebels and his eventual fall could be months or even years away, Mood said.
"In the short term it may very well be possible for him to (hold on), because the military capabilities of the Syrian army are much much stronger than those of the opposition," Mood said.
"The minute you see larger military formations leaving the ranks of the government to join the opposition, then that is when it starts accelerating ... This could last for months or even years," he said.
Mood left Syria after his 90-day mission expired - the mandate was renewed on July 20 for 30 days - and has been replaced by Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, who has already taken up his post in Damascus.
Mood, who commanded a 400-strong mission, was unable to stop the escalating violence and said organized groups with artillery, mortars and mechanized formations were responsible for some of the violence in Syrian villages.
Meanwhile, International mediator Kofi Annan is still trying to forge a political solution to the Syria crisis despite being made a scapegoat for the failure of the two sides to agree, a source close to the mediation effort said on Friday.
Annan and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon were meeting in London on Friday to discuss the future of mediation efforts and the UN observer mission, and the Syria "Action Group" may meet again soon, but not at ministerial level, the source said.
The source described the latest veto of a UN Security Council resolution on Syria as "a trainwreck", but said it was encouraging to see opposition figures coming together, although they needed to "hurry up" to form a cohesive group.
On the ground in Syria, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is evacuating some expatriate aid workers due to the deteriorating security situation, moving them temporarily to Beirut, a spokesman said on Friday.
"An unstable and deteriorating situation in several parts of the country has led the ICRC to temporarily relocate some of its staff outside of Syria," ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan told Reuters in Geneva. "A core team of expatriates and nationals will continue working in Damascus."
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent has suspended some of its aid operations in the city of Aleppo, mainly the deployment of ambulances and first aid work by volunteers, he added.