German intel: Assad strengthening hold in Syria

BND head says gov't regime gaining more control in conflict, contradicting previous reports; rebels in Qusair call for backup.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
May 22, 2013 16:59
2 minute read.
Syrian President Bashar Assad heading a cabinet meeting in Damascus, February 12, 2013.

Bashar Assad 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/SANA/Handout)

Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime has become more stable, gaining an upper hand in capabilities to successfully thwart rebels amid the conflit plaguing the country, German foreign intelligence agency assessments were reported as stating Wednesday in German weekly Der Speigel.

Gerhard Schindler, head of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) reportedly informed select politicians in a secret meeting of the agency's new view of the situation in Syria contradicting its assessment last summer that Assad would fall by early 2013.

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According to the BND, Assad forces could take back southern Syria by the end of the year if the conflict continues as it has in recent weeks, Der Speigel cited Schindler as saying.

Despite the military forces' alleged strengthening hold in the conflict, BND assessments reportedly did not project that the government regime has enough strength to defeat the opposition, but it could improve its current position.

While BND allegedly expressed the belief that the opposition was facing difficulties and losing power amid faction fighting, rebels fighting for control of the Syrian town of Qusair called for reinforcements on Wednesday to repel forces loyal to Assad.

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Opposition fighters said air strikes and shelling rocked the small town on the Syrian-Lebanese border that has seen some of the fiercest fighting in months in the two-year-old war that has so far cost at least 80,000 lives.

The fighting has drawn in fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah movement, the latest sign of outside involvement in the war and evidence, according to Britain, that Iran and its allies in the militant group are lending increasing support to Assad.

After months of warnings from regional and international experts, violence is now spilling over Syria's borders, with clashes between pro- and anti-Assad factions in the Lebanese city of Tripoli and exchanges of fire between Syrian and Israeli forces in the Golan Heights.

Alarmed by the prospect of a wider conflict, the United States and Russia have agreed to back international peace talks intended to bring the rebels and Syrian government back to the table, although expectations of a breakthrough are low.

While rebels are reinforced by foreign Islamists loyal to al-Qaida, the high-profile involvement of Iranian-backed Hezbollah on the government side has been accompanied by a report from a senior US official of the presence of Iranians in Qusair.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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