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Vol 106 / Issue 8

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focus: syria GeorGe ourfaLian/reuters Rebel TeRRiToRy: Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad clashed with Free Syrian Army fighters in the Alleramoun area of Aleppo Dec. 29. Why Assad's rule may endure His opposition is fragmented, his core appears coup-resistant – and the West fears him less than the radical Islamist alternative. By Nicholas Blanford / Correspondent W Beirut, LeBanon hen protesters took to the streets of Syrian cities in March 2011, President Bashar al-Assad looked set to become the latest victim of a revolution like ones that had already toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and were soon to do the same in Yemen and Libya. But almost three years later, Mr. Assad still 18 inhabits the presidential palace overlooking a battle-scarred Damascus. The tenacity of his regime, the evident disarray within the political opposition, and armed rebel groups' drift toward Islamic extremism have spurred some in the West to voice what was unthinkable just a year ago: that Assad could actually win, and that his survival may even be preferable to a rebel victory, which could bring about a Syria dominated by Al Qaeda-affiliated extremists. The ChrisTian sCienCe MoniTor Weekly | January 13, 2014 Ryan Crocker, a former US ambassador to Damascus with extensive experience in the Middle East, recently caused a stir by predicting in a New York Times op-ed that Assad would eventually regain the country "inch by bloody inch." "And do we really want the alternative – a major country in the heart of the Arab world in the hands of Al Qaeda?" he wrote. Still, although Assad has survived longer than many would have predicted in 2011, his chances of winning the war are slim. Neither side is strong enough to decisively win, and a "victory" would still give him only a shadow of what he had in February 2011, analysts say. VNEXT PAGE

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