Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has reportedly left Damascus and is directing his military's response to the assassination of three of his top security chiefs from the safety of his Alawite minority's coastal stronghold. Syrian rebels have seized key border crossings and torched police headquarters in the capital as they continue an offensive in the heart of the regime's power. There have been unconfirmed reports, refuted by Moscow, that Assad's wife, Asma, has fled to Russia, the regime's main protector and ally. Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to France claims Assad has accepted that he has to leave power, a suggestion Syria denies, but the Obama administration says it's clear Assad is "losing control." Is the Syrian regime starting to unravel?
Assad has definitely lost his grip: Judging by the fighting and bombings in Damascus, says Bruce Riedel at The Daily Beast, Assad's regime "is finally coming to an end." Once he has lost control for good, chaos will reign, so the international community should prepare to restore order with a peacekeeping force. It's the only way to prevent violent reprisals by the Sunni majority for decades of Alawite repression, and to keep Assad's chemical weapons from falling into terrorists' hands.
"What comes after Assad in Syria?"
The regime might still regain its footing: Assad and his rivals are locked in "an intense psychological war," says Roula Khalaf at Britain's Financial Times. Rebels argue that the government is disintegrating; Assad is trying to convince loyalists that he's still "in control" and "can overcome the massive shock of a brazen rebel penetration of the regime's security umbrella." If Assad "fails to impose his authority over Damascus," he might fall back to his Alawite haven, and fight for survival.
"Assad holds Alawites in reserve"
Assad can't survive much more bad news: The brazen bombing of Assad's security nerve center on Wednesday appears to have been "an inside job," says The Economist in an editorial, which suggests that "the loyalty of the army" is fraying. That's only the "latest blow" for Assad — huge swathes of the country "have become no-go areas for government forces," and the pace of defections is skyrocketing. Assad might "hang on for months" or collapse quickly, but every setback increases the likelihood that his protectors, at home and in Russia, will abandon him.
"Towards the endgame"