WASHINGTON — On the one-year anniversary of the uprisings in Syria, U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the armed resistance is not able to mount a credible military threat to the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The powerful, Russian-armed Syrian army remains firmly in control behind the Assad regime.
That assessment underlies the Obama administration’s reluctance to become more actively involved in the uprising against Assad that began on March 15, 2011. After a year of sporadic and inconclusive violence against the regime, the White House has flatly ruled out providing arms to the opposition and instead is focusing on coordinating international pressure against the Assad regime and providing humanitarian relief.
President Barack Obama met yesterday with British Prime Minister David Cameron. “Right now we are focused on getting humanitarian aid to those in need,” Obama said after the White House meetings. International economic, political and diplomatic pressure is becoming stronger, Obama said, vowing, “Assad will leave power. It’s not a question of if, but when.” Cameron agreed on the non-military approach. “What we want is the quickest way to stop the killing — that is, through transition, rather than through revolution or civil war,” he said at a White House news conference. While Russia, Syria’s main weapons patron, vowed this week to continue arms sales to the Assad regime, White House officials reiterated that sending arms to the opposition has been ruled out. “We believe it could heighten and prolong the violence in Syria,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
Even though the Assad regime has fended off the challenge so far, its long-term future is in doubt, some critics say. In a recent assessment, the International Crisis Group, an independent think tank, wrote that Assad’s days are numbered.