Assad is grinding out a victory

The Assad regime’s recent successes are by no means sweeping — its offensive operations sometimes progress very slowly or fail altogether, and in some places it has lost ground. But it is having incremental success on key fronts in Aleppo and the Damascus area. If it prevails there, the war’s real and perceived direction would shift strongly in its favor — Bashar al-Assad and his allies, buoyed by success, would press their “military solution” harder and become even less inclined to negotiate.

Accordingly, many are concerned about the rebels suffering potentially substantial defeats in Aleppo and Damascus. While this is unlikely to happen overnight, there is always the possibility of a quick collapse of resistance through the cumulative effects of casualties, logistical problems, loss of will to fight, and declining popular support. The rebels have fought long and hard on many fronts, but their determination may not last indefinitely. It is an open question whether they can respond effectively to the regime’s challenge without greater internal unity and significant outside military assistance, including arms, training, advice, and intelligence.