Analysis: Assad will turn to Russia for a 'way out'

Defense officials say Russian FM is expected to tell Assad diplomatic support from Russia won't last.

Assad making speech 311 (r) (photo credit: REUTERS/Syrian TV)
Assad making speech 311 (r)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Syrian TV)
As violence continued to escalate in Syria on Monday, officials in the Israeli defense establishment predicted President Bashar Assad was searching for a “way out” and would likely turn to Russia for assistance.
On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will arrive in Damascus as the head of a delegation of intelligence and military officers.
Lavrov is expected to tell Assad the diplomatic support he received from Russia at the United Nations over the weekend will not last forever and the embattled president will need to begin considering his resignation.
Russia’s interest in Syria is believed to stem mainly from its desire to retain a foothold in the Middle East. It currently has a naval presence in the city of Tartus.
The prediction within the IDF is Assad’s fall will ultimately be based on a combination of three factors – Syria’s failing economy, its refusal to insert fresh blood into the ranks of the leadership and the military’s failure to stop the opposition, as demonstrated by the continued fighting in Homs.
The assessment within the defense establishment however is Assad will not surrender until he feels the fighting spreads closer to him in Damascus. If and when that happens, Assad is expected to leave the country, possibly to Russia.
Israel’s immediate concern after Assad falls will be over the fate of Syria’s advanced weapons platforms such as the sophisticated air defense systems and its chemical weapons arsenal.
Syria has one of the most extensive arsenals of chemical weapons in the world with Sarin, VX and mustard gas. It also has hundreds of long-range Scud missiles.
One possibility is that Hezbollah would try to get its hands on the weaponry. As reported last month in The Jerusalem Post, Hezbollah has been using the upheaval in Syria to move advanced weaponry into Lebanon out of fear that it will be lost if Assad falls.