A pair of recent and significant rebel victories add to the emerging sense that the Assad regime is in deep trouble. First, a coalition of Syrian rebels, led by Jabhat al-Nusra, scored a second major victory this month against Bashar al-Assad’s forces in northwestern Syria, capturing the symbolically important town of Jisr al-Shughour, one of the first places to take up arms against the government. The rebels had overrun the city of Idlib in late March.
In addition, reports this morning suggest that rebels had taken a major government base in Idlib province during a related advance, adding at least seven tanks, large ammunition caches and scores of rocket launchers to their stocks.
As Walter Russell Mead wrote yesterday, Assad’s fall now seems more possible than it has in years. If it happens, it will likely be protracted, bloody, and accompanied by the further rise of unsavory actors like al-Nusra. But his demise could help bring a semblance of regional balance in the Sunni-Shi’a war, and thereby give the United States some strategic room to maneuver. In a Syria where the options are (at this point) bad and worse, the toppling of the butcher is something probably more to be desired than despaired.