Butcher Assad as history will probably name him has had a good first week of Ramadan. Yes, scores and maybe hundreds of innocent Syrians died in the streets, the Assad dynasty is now cordially hated throughout the Sunni Arab world, violence at home is continuing, the diplomatic isolation of Syria deepens by the day, sanctions are beginning to bite and the economic outlook is not good.On the other hand, Assad still holds power in Damascus, which from his point of view is infinitely the most important thing, and his strategy to keep things that way seems to be working.Judging from his actions, Assad believes that the key to survival is to keep the domestic protests contained. To achieve this with a limited and in parts unreliable army he seems to be attacking the centers of protest one at a time. He lets protests simmer in some cities while brutalizing the main target, then turns from that target to the next. This approach, ghastly and brutal as it is, seems to be working at present and time is probably on his side.The question is whether forces outside Syria — the liberal west, angry Sunnis, ‘world public opinion’ whatever that is — can somehow shift the balance of power inside the country. Assad thinks they can’t. His calculation is that Libya has killed the appetite of the Atlantic powers for new humanitarian wars in the Middle East. Britain and France are up to their eyeballs in an unsustainable military commitment, and the Obama administration is too weak and too busy to do much more than talk. Americans talk a lot; Assad and his father have ignored American lectures and advice for decades. Russia and China will block military action at the UN even if anyone was asking; NATO’s reckless and cynical mandate-stretching in Libya has closed that door for a long time to come.Sunni rage is as impotent, Assad believes, as the liberal west. Saudi Arabia can bribe but to little effect. Egypt is in no position to look beyond its frontiers. From his point of view, the Sunni Arab world is as impotent against Iran as it is against its other hate objects: Israel and the United States. The Sunnis and the west huffed and puffed but they weren’t able to turf Assad out of Lebanon and they won’t get him out of Damascus.That leaves Turkey; the impotence of the Sunni Arabs combined with Turkey’s shift away from secularism offers Prime Minister Erdogan the chance to reprise the role of the Ottoman sultans and become a kind of de facto caliph: the protector of the Sunni Arab world. Assad believes that Turkey will talk rather than strike; the costs of chaos on its southeastern frontier are too high. More, Assad believes that Iran will offer whatever he needs to balance the Turks.As for sanctions, and isolation, he can wait them out for decades if he must. Iran will help him financially and China and Russia can help him shelter his money.This is his calculation and so far he’s been right. We shall see if that lasts.