May 26th, 2013
10:56 AM ET

'Al-Assad is a red line'

"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern Politics and International Relations at the London School of Economics, about the state of the al-Assad regime in Syria.

Does Assad have an incentive to make peace?

Yes, I think he does. Of course, on his own terms. He wants a political solution. He wants, basically, Syria to be in charge of this particular political solution. He wants the outside opposition to be marginalized.

He basically believes that the external powers, particularly Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are funding the most extremist elements in the opposition.

And obviously he wants to stay in power.

Oh, absolutely. I’ve no doubt in my mind that he and his associates believe that they are winning the fight. They have survived more than two years a very powerful campaign by regional international powers. They have gone on the offensive. They tell you, if you meet with Assad's people, they tell you they are winning this war. And any political settlement will most likely reflect the balance of power on the ground inside Syria. That's what it means.

And do you buy that? You've been there. You know lots of people. On the ground right now, do you think Assad has regrouped and is actually in a stronger position?

Well, look, I have to say, Assad is not winning, but the opposition also is not winning.  Assad has survived some of the most two brutal years any particular dictator can face. His military machine remains intact.

In fact, he has gone on the offensive. He has made some major gains on the ground. His allies, Hezbollah and Iran, are deeply committed to his survival. Iran and Hezbollah have made it very clear, Assad is a red line. The Russians are deeply invested in Syria and he has a social base of support. And the emergence of radical elements within the opposition, I would argue, has consolidated the social base of support for Assad.

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Topics: Iran • Russia • Syria

soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. flouik

    Well Bashar's powers have been greatly challenged and I hope that this will be a turning point for that regime, I encourage the peace talk, and hope that both sides are open for compromise. and hope that the cool heads prevail

    May 26, 2013 at 11:04 am | Reply
  2. j. von hettlingen

    Recently John Kerry had downplayed Assad's gains and said he was miscalculating if he thought that the gains he made in the last few days were going to determine his military victory. Although Assad's killing machine is still intact and he receives help from Iran and the Hezbollah, his army itself is fighting a war of attrition. The Sunni rebels outnumber the Alawite forces. Even if they have heavy artillery, how long can they carry on psychologically?

    May 26, 2013 at 11:38 am | Reply
  3. matslats

    He is all but saying that the US and its oil-dictator allies have failed to instigate regime change in Syria, despite throwing all the islmaic militants they could find into the fray.

    May 26, 2013 at 11:44 am | Reply
  4. sand

    sooner or later this irish american whoore house is getting removed my geuss is sooner when the icbms start smashing into dublin ireland and ghana accra then the west will understand what real power is one big nuclear bomb and australia britain and the usa is dust. death to the irish half breeds.

    May 26, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Reply
    • Fire Fly 6

      don't you have a pineapple to go play with?

      May 28, 2013 at 6:50 am | Reply
  5. tms5510

    The guy is funny ... first he says "Assad is not winning .." and just two line after that he says : "..he has gone on the offensive. He has made some major gains on the ground" I don't know what you call it but when you get some major gains on the ground and you're on offensive it means you're winning :))

    May 26, 2013 at 9:41 pm | Reply
  6. JAL

    We need to answer the "then what?" question to gain momentum here. Without that, the more Assad loses, the more the center of gravity of this conflict will move into Israel, starting with Golan Heights. Begin working closely with the Libyan government to help create business and financial infrastructure in that country, then major financial investment.

    May 26, 2013 at 10:04 pm | Reply
  7. rightospeak

    Fawaz is very careful not to say that we are losing the proxy war in Syria. If Assad is a dictator what are the kings financing the rebels , democrats ?Assad is actually a socialist , but the media avoids that description. What they would like is for Assad to sell all his media to the international bankers who would use the media , which they are doing now , to topple Assad, grab the land and water, privatize it and sell it to the highest bidder while the poor starve. Then they would try to repeat the same thing with Iran. Privatizing oil would bring HUGE profits. It is a profit game while the US taxpayer foots part of the bill. What the idiots are overlooking is a possible nuclear exchange that would be a disaster for all and a possible obliteration of Israel. If this continues , Netanyahu may get his suicidal wish yet.

    May 27, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Reply
  8. Matt

    A Hothead would bomb his palace, for all his naughty little deeds, like weapons transfers.

    May 28, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Reply
  9. joe anon 1

    assad, assad, assad.

    when will the u.s. tell the truth? mind its own business? stop attacking countries for the benefit of israel?

    president bashar al-assad will outlast obama and the following american thug-puppet.

    in june, 2014 president assad will receive 75%(minimum) of the votes in syria. large numbers of syrians will vote and they will tell the jewish west to drop dead.

    May 28, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Reply
  10. RLTJ's

    Amidst all the talks that Assad stands on nothing but brute force, I think he has got considerable mass support. And this support keeps his army standing. Somebody miscalculated.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:47 pm | Reply
  11. RLTJ's

    And Israel becoming active in Syria only confuses the Arabs against Assad.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:49 pm | Reply
    • RLTJ's

      And while there are Arab states that are friendly to the west, the effect of Israel intervention, among anti-Zionist ordinary people in the streets of those Arab states is hard to gauge at this time. The internal security of those countries might be affected.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Reply
    • RLTJ's

      Maybe Israel is betting on the 'lesser evil'. But if we look deeper, Syria is a fraternal conflict of people who could not agree how to fight Zionism.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Reply
  12. RLTJ's

    Brute force alone does not work. Militarist minds should be taught that.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:52 pm | Reply
  13. RLTJ's

    Political issues gone and buried by now sectarian strife was a mistake by rebels.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Reply

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