BEIRUT — As world leaders close ranks against Syrian leader Bashar Assad, the U.S. president summed up the popular wisdom during a recent White House press conference: “Ultimately, this dictator will fall.”
That prediction may be premature.
Regime forces have retaken the major opposition strongholds, the rebels are low on money and guns, and the U.N. has ruled out any military intervention of the type that tipped the scales against Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi. Relying on the scorched-earth tactics that have kept his family in power for more than 40 years, Assad is in no immediate danger of falling.
That does not mean the bloodshed is nearing an end. Syria’s rebels are turning to guerrilla tactics, such as roadside bombs and ambushes, and terrorist groups like al-Qaida appear to be entering the fray and exploiting the chaos.
Assad could hang on indefinitely while an already violent conflict metastasizes into an insurgency that lays waste to the country.
The U.N. estimates that more than 8,000 people have been killed since the uprising began a year ago in a grim cycle of attack and reprisal.