Endgame for Assad?
Brian Whitaker, the Guardian's former Middle East editor identifies six reasons why the Assad regime maybe nearing the end.
1. Withdrawal of UN and diplomatic personnel: In effect, the UN and EU are now only a step away from ordering a complete evacuation.
2. Jihad Makdissi flees: This may not be as big a loss as some of the earlier defections and assassinations but it does tell us how someone who was privy to a lot of regime information now views the situation.
3. Damascus airport: A capital city without a functioning airport isn't really a capital city any more. Syrian officials insist the airport is still open, but to what extent it may be operating is a different matter.
4. Internet shutdown: Last week's two-day shutdown of the internet and mobile phones was widely seen as a deliberate move by the regime – and a sign of desperation, if not panic.
5. US reviewing its options: A report in the New York Times on Saturday said the US is "considering deeper intervention to help push President Bashar al-Assad from power".6. Chemical weapons: Even among Assad's opponents there is a general belief that he is unlikely to use chemical weapons except as a last resort. If the US has really detected signs of "potential" preparation for use, it would mean the Assad regime is actively thinking about the end-game.
Former US diplomat Daniel Serwer puts forward three more reasons (together with two identified by Brian) why Assad is in trouble.
- His security forces have lost a number of aircraft, helicopters and air force bases in recent days
- Russian President Putin’s visit to Turkey has generated rumours that Moscow’s support for Asad is fading
- Iran has intensified diplomacy with Turkey and Lebanon....."