(photo credit: REUTERS)
The balance of power between Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces and the rebels seems to be leaning in the rebels’ favor in the long-run, but the regime is not at risk of collapsing in the coming weeks, experts told The Jerusalem Post.
Prof. Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syria from the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, told the Post on Monday that there has been no dramatic change in the balance of power as of late, but “the momentum is definitely going against Assad and in the long run it is hard to see how he can survive.”
“The main issue is the lack of manpower,” said Zisser adding that even with the additional Hezbollah and Shi’ite forces, it is not enough to really change the dynamics of the war.
Tony Badran, a columnist for the Beirut-based website NOW Lebanon and a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Post in an interview that despite Shi’ite support from across the word, and mainly coming from Iran and Hezbollah – “It hasn’t prevented continued territorial losses.”
Assad’s regime is not about to fall tomorrow, but it has not been able to overcome a key structural problem, which is his limited mobilization capacity. “There simply is not enough manpower to support offensives and they can barely hold lines.”
The ability of Shi’ites to fill the manpower problem appears to have reached its limit of usefulness, argues Badran.
If all else fails, Iran’s plan B, argues Badran, has always been “to maintain a continuous hold on territory linking Syrian regime territory with Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
Asked if Saudi Arabia’s King Salman’s coming to power is a factor boosting the rebel forces, Badran responded that this does seem to be the case and notes how the timing of the onset of the Saudi-led attacks in Yemen coincided with a rebel push in northern Syria as well as in the south, on the border with Jordan.
Badran speculates that the Jordanians may have played a part in the rebel advances as of late by allowing more supplies to cross its border.
And in regard to rumors of possible Saudi-led coalition air strikes in Syria in cooperation with Turkey and Qatar, Badran said that there is presently chatter about giving air cover to the opposition in the south, but it remains just talk for the moment.
Mendi Safadi, who served as former Likud deputy minister Ayoub Kara’s chief of staff and has independently met with members of the liberal and democratic Syrian opposition who oppose the Islamists and want friendly relations with Israel, told the Post
that the real power behind and controlling Assad is Iran and Hezbollah.
“Assad doesn’t even get to decide where he will sleep each night,” he said.
In addition, Safadi said that Iranian and Hezbollah commanders are the ones calling the shots in the Syrian army, causing tensions with the demoralized Alawite troops and, according to Arab reports, even leading two senior security officials to flee the country to Lebanon last week.