Mar 10, 2012 1:19 PM by Matt Stafford
WASHINGTON (AP) - Top U.S. officials all the way up to President Barack Obama are predicting the Syrian regime's days are numbered, but recent U.S. intelligence reports suggest that the Syrian leader commands a formidable army that is unlikely to turn on him, an inner circle that has stayed loyal and a Syrian elite that still supports his rule.
While intelligence officials would not be drawn on a timeline for the regime's possible collapse, their sober assessment hinted at a continuing campaign lasting several months, if not longer, with an inevitable continued loss of life. For the past year, the Syria's government has tried to crush a popular uprising inspired by the Arab Spring movements. The U.N. says more than 7,500 people have been killed.
A worsening economy could ultimately drive Syrian President Bashar Assad from power, with food prices recently doubling, unemployment rising and refined fuel products running out.
But so far, there have been no mass protests over food or fuel shortages nor any discernible slowing in military activity because of a lack of supplies, according to three senior intelligence officials, speaking Friday on condition of anonymity to provide a snapshot of recent intelligence reports and analysis of the crisis.
Satellite imagery shows a new ferociousness to the embattled regime's attacks, including artillery shelling of multiple mosques, schools, playgrounds and a hospital, in the Sunni neighborhood of Homs, the officials said. The continuing violence, they said, has driven some 2,000 refugees over the Lebanese border and displaced up to 200,000 more Syrians inside the country.