Unfortunately, this assessment is spot on. There is currently no effort coming from the West to depose Assad. We’re not even targeting him, personally. The Russians and Iranians continue to assist him, and, thus far, we’re not doing anything to prevent that. So, if he refrains from using chemical weapons, and he doesn’t need them to win, he’s going to hold onto power. Now, what, exactly, holding onto power in a post-civil war Syria is going to look like is another question. Assad is, increasingly, becoming a pawn of the Russians and, most especially, the Iranians.
While the attack by the U.S., Britain and France destroyed military positions and research facilities linked to chemical weapons, it did little to degrade Assad’s capacity to wage war, or target the fighters from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah supporting him.
The action has underlined that the NATO powers won’t tolerate the use of chemical weapons. But it also telegraphed to Assad that his position is safe and pretty much anything else goes. As U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said: The attack “was not about regime change.”
Without a serious step up in allied strikes in both frequency and size — and right now there is no sign that will happen — there’s no stopping Assad. He has already all but won his war, and those in the triple alliance supporting him can get back to pursuing their policy objectives.
It’s business as usual for the former ophthalmologist, whose family has ruled Syria for half a century. He’s presided over a war that’s killed about 500,000 people and forced millions from their homes. And he’s free to keep strolling through his presidential palace.