Baku, Azerbaijan, Aug. 26
By Claude Salhani - Trend:
The score currently, if one was to keep track of where things stand at the moment in the Syrian civil war would be as follows: Syria 2, Islamists, 1 and the rest of the world 0.
For a short while it was touch-and-go for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Syria appeared to be on the brink of collapse and many were the pundits who predicted a rapid end to the rule of the Baath Party and the Assad dynasty. Months, they said, if not weeks, and the regime would fall. That was more that three years ago.
Indeed, the situation appeared dismal; soldiers and officers of the Syrian Army were defecting to the opposition in droves. A competing force called the Free Syrian Army was established and had won the support - at least verbally - from the United States and the European Union.
Promises of sophisticated weaponry to the opposition were given which made it seem as though the regime's days were numbered.
Additionally, Mr. Assad had managed to upset his powerful neighbor to the north, Turkey, a main powerhouse in the Levant. Syria's relation with the rest of its neighbors was frosty at best. A number of Syrian ambassadors and diplomats defected to the opposition or simply walked away, not wanting to be associated with the regime.
Damascus and the regime were under siege. Important government buildings were bombed and several high-ranking members of the government were killed.
Today, more than three and a half years after the start of what was widely believed would have been a quick overthrow of the regime, as was the case in Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt and Libya, the war in Syria drags on.
More than 192,000 people have been killed and many, many more maimed, tortured, starved and detained in dismal conditions, and still there is nary an end in sight.
The latest figures from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees has estimated that some 9 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of violence started in March 2011. That is almost half the population of Syria's 22 million people.
A recent report published by the UNHCR states that about half of the refugees, some 2.5 million have sought refuge in neighboring countries such as Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon.
But the score is currently leaning in favor of Mr. Assad. At the start of the conflict the Syrian president made two predictions.
First, Mr. Assad said that if his government was to falter and fall it would give rise to the Islamists. Many did not believe this and put it off as alarmist thinking to frighten the West into supporting him.
Today as we witness, not only have the Islamists taken over parts of Syria, but the so-called Islamic State has expanded into neighboring Iraq and attempts have already been made to infiltrate Lebanon. In this respect, the Syrian president's prediction held true and then some.
The second prediction was that if he was to go down, Mr. Assad said he would take down the whole region with him.
The situation has turned around to such an extent that American lawmakers are today reconsidering extending support to the Syrian government and its president.
That clearly puts the score in favor of the regime once again, but at what price?
Claude Salhani is a political analyst and senior editor with Trend agency
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