Syrian civilians who volunteered to join local Self Protection Units to protect their neighborhoods alongside the Syrian army attend training in Damascus countryside, Syria December 5, 2015. The text on the badges read in Arabic, "the soldiers of al-Assad" and "The protectors of homes."
Omar Sanadiki / Reuters

President Bashar al-Assad is winning in Syria. Russia has shifted the balance of power there dramatically. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the UN might insist that Assad negotiate with his opponents and ultimately cede power to them, but the Syrian president has no intention of accepting such demands. His advisers state that he will go to talks in Geneva this month “to listen, but not to negotiate.” In other words, he is still out for victory on the battlefield. As the United States enters the now delayed UN negotiating process, it will have to stay flexible in its expectations and objectives in light of the shifting military balance on the ground.  

The main reason for Assad’s renewed confidence is a clear reversal of military fortune. Three months ago, Assad’s army was beleaguered. A large confederation of jihadist and Islamist militias calling themselves the Victory Army

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  • JOSHUA LANDIS is Director of the Center for Middle East Studies and Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma’s College of International Studies. He also writes “Syria Comment,” a daily newsletter on Syria.
  • STEVEN SIMON is a Visiting Lecturer at Dartmouth College and served as Senior Director for Middle Eastern and North African Affairs at the White House from 2011 through 2012.
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