It is Syria’s fate to be caught between the interests of the West and Russia. Over 250,000 people have been killed and over 4 million Syrians are refugees living in Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, as well as 5 million internally displaced refugees. But, the support of Russia and China has prevented the fate of Syria being decided by the UN Security Council. Russia seeks to retain its only Mediterranean port at Latakia. And the survival so far of the Assad regime, notwithstanding the opposition of Pres. Obama and the western allies, has prevented a resolution of the fiasco that is Syria today.
I have read analyses by experts that are basically contradictory, saying either that the Assad regime is managing to survive, or predicting its imminent downfall. Certainly there have been recent military defeats for the Syrian Army, both in the south by the Free Syrian Army and other insurgents, and in the north west in Idlib by the Al Nusrah Front affiliated to Al Qaeda. These defeats are part of the gradual collapse of the Assad regime, that now controls only about 40% of the country. Much of the rest of Syria, including the north east, has been under the control of the Islamic State forces and the Kurdish Autonomous Region for several years now. There is no likelihood that the Assad regime will ever recover them. But, the regime, bolstered by Hizbollah, has fought back along the Syrian Lebanese border and managed to keep control there, although with high casualties.
Damascus is the key to the survival of the Assad regime. The IS forces have been attacking very close to southern Damascus, for example when they took and held the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp last month. It is still being held by forces of the Al Nusrah Front. The Syrian Army has besieged the camp for two years and the Palestinians are caught between the two sides, neither of which care about their existence (I see no demonstrations in support of these truly poor Palestinians). If a sustained and strong advance by the insurgent forces can be mounted on Damascus, then the Syrian Army might collapse. But, so far this has not happened, so the regime continues to limp along. I must say, from an Israeli point of view, I have no sympathy for either side. Only the democratic insurgents deserve our support.