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The situation in Syria is looking more and more like the end game for Bashar al-Assad. Even Russian President Putin has been heard to say "Bashar who?"

The problem is that it looks like he is trying to kill as many Syrians as he can before he goes. He is wildly firing off unguided Scud missiles at his own country and has been using all manners of death dealing weapons, everything short of chemical weapons, against civilian targets.

The articles below the fold deal with some of this. What they don't deal with is the growing refugee crisis with as many as a million refugees leaving Syria or the critical situation with regards to food, shelter, heat and basic services for millions more still stuck in the war zone that most of Syria has become.

Protest in al-Qadam, Damascus | We Will be Victorious | 21 Dec 2012

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From the Strategy Page today we have this assessment of the poor prospects for the Assad regime:

The Deathwatch Phase

 December 21, 2012: The Syrian rebellion is now in its deathwatch phase. The government is doomed and its forces grow weaker every day. It’s only a matter of time before the government losses control of the entire country and surviving officials flee for sanctuary. Allies (Iran, Russia, China) have been quietly offering refuge to Assad and his senior aides. President Basher Assad keeps making public announcements that he has no intention of leaving. The same can’t be said about the several thousand senior officials he depends on to control the country. Many of these people have committed known criminal acts over the decades and have to fear rebel retribution if they are still in Syria when the rebels win. Many of these officials have already sent their families into exile and when these army and government leaders join their families in large numbers, you’ll know it’s the end. That is expected to happen within the next few months, or weeks.

At the moment the government is calling more and more of its most reliable troops back to Damascus to defend the capital. Despite weeks of government air and ground attacks, rebel gunmen and Islamic terrorists continue to operate inside Damascus. You can hear the gunfire and explosions from downtown where the ministries and major business headquarters are located. The second largest city (after Damascus), Aleppo, is almost completely under rebel control. That includes dozens of military bases, and most of the weapons and munitions stored there. The government troops have died, been captured, deserted or, most frequently been moved to another part of the country.

The big fear in the West is that Assad may turn his chemical weapons (especially the nerve gas) over to Hezbollah or these weapons may be seized by rebel groups that are also Islamic terrorists intent on attacking the West and Israel. Hezbollah, as a creation of Iran (in the 1980s) could have gotten nerve gas from Iran at any time since then. But that stuff, if used, could be traced back to Iran with dire consequences for Iran. The Syrian stuff, created by a Syrian dictator recently removed from power, would be another matter. In any event, this is not a huge deal as nerve gas is vastly overrated as a terrorist (or military) weapon.

A more immediate problem for the victorious rebels is getting the economy going again. Many key officials (business owners and government officials) who took care of that will be gone after the rebel victory. As was discovered in Libya, putting the economy and government back together is not easy. The same can be said about restoring law and order. As in Libya, Syria will have dozens of major militias, and hundreds of smaller ones, all making demands on the new government and threatening violence if they don’t get their way. Rebel leaders, while still on speaking terms with each other, are already trying to work out the rules for a post-Assad Syria. More...

Also today, Vivienne Walt addressed one of the main reasons Assad's fight might be coming to an end in Time World:
Assad’s Cash Problem: Will Syria’s Dwindling Reserves Bring Down the Regime?

With more than 40,000 people killed in Syria’s devastating war, and about three million people driven from their homes, Western and Arab leaders are grappling with one question: How and when does all this end? The answer, say some, might lie not in the horrific bloodshed but in a simpler factor: money. Economists say President Bashar Assad’s regime has effectively gone broke, and is running out of ways to raise revenues and keep most of its soldiers properly fed and paid. “The economy is the basis of everything,” says Samir Seifan, a prominent Syrian economist who fled last year. He spoke by phone from Dubai. “Without services, boots, money, you cannot do anything. If the government cannot finance the army, they [soldiers] will simply go away.”

That tipping point, in which the government faces all-out financial collapse, seems to be drawing near—between three to six months from now, according to the calculations of Seifan and others who have examined Syria’s finances. Already, Assad has abandoned about 40% of the country’s territory to rebel forces, withdrawing his troops from the ground while his jets continue aerial bombing, apparently because the army is too thinly stretched to defend both rural areas and the government-held pockets of Damascus and Syria’s most populous city, Aleppo. And while Assad appears still to have considerable resources in Damascus, the economic indicators suggest his country is in free-fall, and that he has little way to generate fresh cash—at least not without appeals to allies. More...

The NY Times reported yesterday about how Assad has now simply adopted the policy of slaughtering as many civilians as he can without crossing Obama's red-line by using chemical weapons:
Syria Unleashes Cluster Bombs on Town, Punishing Civilians

By C. J. CHIVERS
Published: December 20, 2012

MAREA, Syria — The plane came in from the southeast late in the afternoon, releasing its weapons in a single pass. Within seconds, scores of finned bomblets struck and exploded on the homes and narrow streets of this small Syrian town.

After the screams and the desperate gathering of the victims, the staff at the local Freedom Hospital counted 4 dead and 23 wounded. All were civilians, doctors and residents said.

Many forms of violence and hardship have befallen Syria’s people as the country’s civil war has escalated this year. But the Syrian government’s attack here on Dec. 12 pointed to one of the war’s irrefutable patterns: the deliberate targeting of civilians by President Bashar al-Assad’s military, in this case with a weapon that is impossible to use precisely.

Syrians on both sides in this fight have suffered from the bloodshed and sectarian furies given dark license by the war. The victims of the cluster bomb attacks describe the tactic as collective punishment, a mass reprisal against populations that are with the rebels. More...

Here are my related diaries on Syria:
SecState[?] John Kerry and his 'dear friend' Bashar Assad
A Libyan rebel speaks out on Jihadists in Syria
Does what Obama said at Newtown apply to Syria?
BREAKING: Heavy fighting in Damascus as coup attempt reported in progress
Assad's jets bomb Palestinian refugee camp
Jabhat al-Nusra is a Threat to the Syrian Revolution
AP weighs in on Obama's Green Light for Assad's slaughter in Syria
Syrian opposition says "Thanks but No Thanks!" to foreign intervention
BREAKING: Assad firing Scud missiles at Syria
Is Assad using white phosphorus in Syria?
BREAKING: Obama recognizes opposition in Syria
Speaking for the murderous regime in Syria
State of the war in Syria: Most of Damascus now in FSA hands!
Syria: Obama's moves Assad's "red line" back as SOHR reports 42,000 dead!
UPDATED: Syria goes dark as "cleansing" begins in Damascus
BREAKING: Assad's Troops Wipe Out a Playground Full of Children in #Syria
BREAKING: Russia denies Syrian army on brink of collapse
BREAKING in Syria: Explosion rocks Damascus as people use "Truce Day" to protest regime
We condemn Israel. So why the silence on Syria?
Norodom Sihanouk at his finest & more on Syria
Meet a Syrian who doesn't think both sides are equally bad and is betting her life on it!
Two statements about Syria
Syria Today: New videos from the revolutionary war
Syrian Defector: Assad behind "terrorist" bombs
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Truth Out: How Assad helped France kill Qaddafi
Panetta: Unilateral U.S. Military Intervention in Syria Would Be a Serious Mistake
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Syria: Secret source of rebel arms revealed
BREAKING: Amnesty on Syria - Assad Regime guilty on indiscriminate slaughter
Syrian Revolution Digest shows "disgusting" photos!
Syria: The Killing Field the World is Learning to Live With
Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad
LIVE VIDEO: “World Silence is Killing Syria” Rally in #DC
Free #Syria responds to Robert Fisk
UPDATED: #Assad: "#Syria doesn't need a green light!"
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BREAKING: Amnesty site hacked, Assad propaganda posted
BREAKING: 630 Slaughtered in new massacre in Syria
Special message from Syrian children to Obama
Assad's Redline and Obama's Greenlight!
General Meade at Gettysburg
Tell US gov't to stop endangering Syrian activists
UPDATED: Obama "green lights" #Assad's slaughter in Syria
Syria: Turning Battlegrounds into Playgrounds
BREAKING: Bashar al-Assad is alive as deaths in Syria reach 25,000
The Left and the Arab Spring
Iran increasing its intervention in Syria
Syria: Images from the Battle of Aleppo
Fears grow of WMD attack in Syria
UPDATED: FSA says it killed Russian General in Syria
BREAKING: Syria releases new images of Bashar al- Assad | Are they fakes?
NOT BREAKING NEWS: Just another massacre in Syria
UPDATED: Syrian prime minister defects
Syria: FSA says Iranian pilgrims really Republican Guard
Syria: Aleppo under Siege!
BREAKING: UN votes to condemn Assad Regime as Reuters posts false story on Syria
BREAKING: Kofi Annan resigns as envoy to Syria
Syria: Bashar al-Assad not heard from on Armed Forces Day!
BREAKING: Senior Syrian diplomat to Armenia defects
BREAKING: Big Explosion hits #Damascus #Syria
UPDATED: Syria's Charge D'Affaires Quits London Post
BREAKING: Ground assault on Aleppo begins!
BREAKING: Protests across Syria in spite of Assad regime violence
ALEPPO: Step outside the Matrix and witness the Horror
UPDATED: US fears massacre in #Aleppo, #Syria
BREAKING: Reports of clashes between Jordan Army & Assad's Syrian army
BRAKING: Obama stops Putin from re-arming Assad in Syria
Syria: Foreign meddling increases as crisis builds
BREAKING: Aleppo, Syria bombed with fighter jets
BREAKING: Syria issues a correction, it has no WMD to use
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Bashar al-Assad: New images released as slaughter continues in Syria
no blood for oil
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BREAKING: Is Syria's Bashar al-Assad dead or dying?
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The battle for Damascus is coming
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Does Syria's Assad have something on Kofi Annan?
Tremseh Massacre in Syria: What we know
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Syria: Is Assad regime on the verge of collapse?
BREAKING: Russian Warships reported in Syria
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UN Observers say violence in Syria is ‘Unprecedented’
BREAKING: Defection of major Assad insider reported in Syria
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BREAKING: Syrian Air Force attacks Douma, 10m from Damascus, thousands flee
BREAKING: As Syria Burns, UN Blows More Smoke
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Syria: Ceasefire faltering as mass protests breakout

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