Rebel forces fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army and various Islamist militias have achieved significant gains since the launch of the armed effort to topple the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in July 2011. The rebels are steadily consolidating their control in rural areas, and, if the current trend continues, the remaining government troops in the northern half of the country could find themselves completely cut off from Damascus and western coastal areas within the next six months.

The military’s monopoly on air power has enabled the Assad regime to retain undisputed control of central Damascus and all provincial capitals, with the partial exception of Aleppo, and will continue to provide an important tactical advantage, barring a more active military role for the international community. For that reason, it is not inconceivable that Assad could hang on into 2014.

However, the Assad dynasty, which began under the current president’s father in 1971, is doomed. Only the exact manner of the Baathist regime’s downfall and the precise timing of the end are still to be determined, and both of those variables will greatly affect how much additional damage is caused before the regime is toppled, and whether its overthrow ushers in a period of rebuilding and reconciliation or merely initiates a new phase of widespread violent conflict.

Islamist militias include some of the most disciplined and best-equipped rebel outfits, and have played a key role in securing the territorial gains made over the past six months. The stated goal of these groups is an Islamic state in Syria, an objective that indicates their willingness to cooperate with secular groups is a matter of expediency, and points to a high potential for an armed struggle for dominance between the Islamists and the FSA once Assad is no longer in the picture.


The PRS Group
About The Author The PRS Group
The PRS Group is a leading global provider of political and country risk analysis and forecasts, covering 140 countries. Based on proprietary, quantitative risk models, the firm's clientele includes financial institutions, multilateral agencies, and trans-national firms.

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