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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has not won his country’s civil war; rather, the war is entering a more dangerous phase. Forces fighting on his behalf have made important gains in recent years, capturing Syria’s second city, Aleppo, in 2016 and securing his capital, Damascus, in 2018. They are currently attacking the rebel stronghold in the southern provinces of Quneitra and Daraa, where the revolution began. Together, these victories have changed the trajectory of the war, weakening the moderate opposition and suggesting to many international observers that the fight for Syria is all but over.
But although the regime’s advances are impressive on a map, they will not end the war. Assad is weaker than he seems. His rule depends on the backing of foreign patrons, such as Iran and Russia, and the exhaustion of states that once opposed him, such as Jordan. His decision to internationalize the war will