Military analysts seem all agreed that the Syrian civil war isn't about to end with a rebel seizure of the capital.
More likely is what we have seen in Aleppo – a bloody stalemate in which government forces hold the centre but cannot push back the rebels from the surrounding suburbs. It has lasted nearly four months in Syria's second city and could do so again in Damascus.
But something is changing, not just on the ground but in the international context. Barack Obama's warnings of intervention should Damascus resort to chemical weapons, and the decision this week by NATO foreign ministers to deploy Patriot missiles in Turkey, bring active western involvement closer.
Of course,it is all meant as a deterrent rather than a promise. There is, however, a real sense now that the west is putting in place the means to impose at least a no-fly zone, if not more active engagement.
It's a threat that would certainly act as a game-changer. President Assad can hold on but he cannot win, which means he must lose in the end. The tipping point will come when those on the sidelines commit to a side, and those within the regime to switch sides. What holds a regime together is fear among its supporters of what will happen if the other side wins.
As each week passes without Assad defeating the rebels, so the feeling grows that he is doomed. Even Russia is sensing that he has run out of options, while Iranian support is neither as great nor as absolute as believed. The various interested countries involved are meeting in Morocco next week. It would be a good time to start talking of what we would do to help Syria in a different future. (© Indepen-dent News Service)