Things are not looking good for Bashar al-Assad.
He has consistently lost control of his country, piece by piece. He has pulled his forces back in an effort to concentrate defenses of Damascus and other key cities. This tightening up also makes it easier to feed and provide fuel for the forces that stay loyal to him. While tactically this makes sense—warm and well-fed soldiers do tend to feel better about continuing the fight—it will most likely not work out for him in the long run. Estimations have Assad running out of money completely by April at the latest. The U.S. recently recognized some of the Syrian rebel forces, and now Russia has admitted that a collapse of Assad's regime is likely. A bleak outlook indeed for Mr. Assad.
While this is important progress for the country, they are certainly not out of the woods yet. Assad has proclaimed that he will “live and die in Syria,” and has given no indication of giving up the fight any time soon. Quite the opposite, in fact. There have been recent (not completely verified) reports about Assad’s forces firing Soviet-era Scud ballistic missiles against the rebel forces. This is a marked escalation in the level of violence Assad has been willing to inflict upon his opponents.
While reports that these Scud missiles are still being verified, the international community does believe that the Syrian government has made preparations for the deployment of chemical weapons. The U.S. and other Western nations have warned Assad not to deploy these weapons, and he has made all the proper assurances that he won’t. However, why mobilize them if he has no intention of allowing their use?
Assad is getting more and more desperate daily. It is not unthinkable that he would deploy these weapons if he felt he had no other choice, especially if the reports of Scud missile attacks are true. It is a well-known phenomenon that animals are at their most dangerous when cornered and people are no different. If Assad isn’t feeling cornered yet, it is certainly only a matter of time.
There have been calls for the U.S. to step up its intervention in this conflict in the hopes of averting any more escalation in violence. More than 40,000 civilians have already been killed and countless more have been displaced during this nearly two-year conflict. Is it now time for the U.S. to intervene directly or should we continue to let this play out?