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Terrorism & Security

Syria's Assad: We are in a 'real state of war'

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told his new government yesterday to spare no effort to win what he now calls a full-scale war.

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The fighting happened close to bases of the elite Republican Armed Guard units. That rebel forces were willing to fight so close to their main bases is "unprecedented" and possibly an "indicator of increasing prowess," according to The Globe and Mail. 

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Middle East Editor

Ariel Zirulnick is the Monitor's Middle East editor, overseeing regional coverage both for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She is also a contributor to the international desk's terrorism and security blog. 

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But US intelligence officials told Reuters that despite the military defections and the rebels' growing strength, Assad's "inner circle" remains strong and they see no sign that the regime will fall anytime soon. The more likely scenario is that the conflict, already ongoing for 15 months, will continue. 

"Our overall assessment ... would be that we are still seeing the military regime forces fairly cohesive, they've learned some lessons over the last year and a half about how to deal with this kind of insurgency," an official said. "Both sides seem to be girding for a long struggle. Our sense is that the regime still believes it can ultimately prevail or at least appears determined to try to prevail and the opposition at the same time seems to be preparing for a long fight."

The head of United Nations peacekeeping operations said yesterday that the situation remained too dangerous for the UN monitoring mission in Syria, which suspended its work earlier this month, to resume operations, Syria's Day Press News reports.

Russia agreed yesterday to attend a meeting in Geneva with the rest of the permanent UN Security Council members and Kofi Annan, the UN-appointed mediator for Syria. Mr. Annan has been attempting to broker an end to the fighting for months. He crafted a peace plan that failed rapidly and spectacularly, despite the fact that both the government and rebels agreed to its terms.

That Moscow – which has been at loggerheads with Britain, the US, and France for remaining an ally of the regime – agreed to attend gives the Geneva meeting some substance, the Globe and Mail reports. Iran, another Assad ally, could also be invited. If the US accepted Tehran's involvement – something it has not supported so far – it would signal a new level of concern about the situation on the ground in Syria.

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