BEIRUT: Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad appears to be winning the war against those who sought his overthrow, but he will preside over a ruined country with an economy in tatters.
“Assad remains in charge of most of the population and most of the important territory, and I expect him to continue to rule most of Syria,” said Aron Lund, a Syria expert with the Century Foundation think tank.
“The war goes on, but in the larger strategic sense he has defeated those who sought to depose him,” Lund said.
The writing is on the wall even in the halls of the United Nations, where special envoy Staffan de Mistura last week bluntly urged Assad’s opponents to be more pragmatic.
“Will the opposition be able to be unified and realistic enough and realise that they did not win the war?” he asked.
The comments drew ire from anti-government figures, who have long insisted that Assad must step down and cannot be part of any transitional government.
The head of the opposition High Negotiations Committee, Nasr al-Hariri, called them “shocking and disappointing”.
But the opposition’s demand for Assad’s ouster looks increasingly unrealistic, as his regime finds itself in perhaps its strongest position since the eruption of the conflict in 2011.
His army controls the country’s main cities and possesses a considerable advantage in terms of firepower, thanks to the support of allies Iran and Russia.