The pace of military developments in Syria has picked up noticeably in recent weeks; nearly all of the news has been bad for supporters of President Bashar Assad.
Some have begun speaking of the “beginning of the end” of the regime, but its true strongholds – from Latakia on the coast down through the city of Homs, and the capital, Damascus – are unlikely to see a military defeat any time soon.
The recent victories by rebel groups in Idlib and Deraa provinces highlight only one certainty: When government forces lose territory they respond with intensified shelling and airstrikes. The towns of Idlib and Jisr al-Shughur, for example, are now experiencing the fate of Aleppo, where the rebel-held portion is flattened on a steady basis.
Despite their victories, the rebels have yet to alter the decisive element in the war, namely control of the skies, so each “victory” is liable to bring more devastation in its wake.
The Assad regime, meanwhile, is merely carrying out the informal slogan from 2011 – “Assad, or we burn the country.”
The war looks set to continue for a long time under these conditions, with international peacemaking efforts at a seeming standstill, meaning the only hope lies in an arrangement worked out by Syrians themselves.
People on both sides of the conflict, and in the middle, realize how they have been exploited by both the regime and certain rebel groups. It might sound naïve to expect that Syrians will be able to end this tragedy themselves but more and more people are accepting the idea that unless Syrians act now, the country looks set for year after year of “victories” that entail a horrific cost for millions of Syrians.