Even as the suburbs of Damascus fall in and out of rebel control, Assad is facing a new front in Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city and a commercial and cultural nerve center. The Financial Times reports:
The violence in Marjeh [a neighborhood in Aleppo] exploded on Friday, leaving the area fearful and angry at the weekend. Like the Damascus suburbs that have emerged as a centre of opposition to Mr Assad, Marjeh is a deprived area outside a historic and more prosperous city centre.
Fighting in the big cities like Damascus and Aleppo is so far confined to the poorer neighborhoods. The elite still stands behind Assad, and he also still has Russian support. That last is an asset of increasingly dubious value: second prize, two phone calls from Prime Minister Putin?The smart money increasingly appears to be planning for a Syria without Assad: US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate that Assad is going down — that it was a matter of when, not if — but it might be a while.The signs point to a protracted violent conflict even as the UN Security Council process appears blocked. Rebel forces have brought the fight to Damascus and Aleppo, but if rebel military forces melt away, the movement to oust Assad could lose political and international momentum as well. So far, the rebels seem equal to the contest; if anything, they are gaining ground as more soldiers defect.