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Year of revolt in Syria fails to loosen Assad’s grip
Blood could spill for the long term
“I think [Russia] will stick to their position for the near term, especially if the Syrian regime relatively succeeds and scores a couple of victories,” said Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.
“However, if the situation in Syria takes a dive for the worse and the massacres become dramatically more extended, and if the regime seems to be declining and failing, Russia is not going to stick with them to the end,” he said.
In China, the government has sought to play down dissent in towns and villages. In December, censors blocked Internet searches relating to Wukan, where protesters were involved in clashes with security forces over the death of a villager in police custody.
“They fear most that the essence of the Arab Spring will reach their populations,” Mr. Salem said. “From the very beginning, China was very panicked about the Arab Spring, so it’s not surprising that they continue to oppose it.”
Although many analysts have said Mr. Assad’s days are numbered with the country’s economy in shambles and continuing sanctions by Western governments, others say the regime has done well in comparison with governments toppled by the Arab Spring uprisings such as those in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. They note that Mr. Assad is not looking for an exit strategy.
“The regime is fighting for victory, and they haven’t been defeated. They’ve lost control of many areas, but compared to other regimes in the region, they’ve done remarkably quite well, and they feel they could ride this out and come out more or less victorious at the end.”
Other analysts said there have been some top defections to the opposition, which is beginning to arm itself.
“So far, Assad’s regime has stayed relatively cohesive, although we have started to see a few high-level defections,” said Jane Kinninmont of the London-based think tank Chatham House.
Many analysts say Mr. Assad will have to resign eventually.
“The regime is very strong and cannot be defeated, but their time has passed,” Mr. Salem said. “Their legitimacy is largely gone, and they don’t represent a solution for the future.”
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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