Syria’s savage civil war may have just entered a new and darker phase. During the past few weeks, momentum has shifted sharply away from the rebels in favor of the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. The real possibility that his government, long presumed to be on life support, may now survive is bad news for rebel forces and the millions of Syrians who have suffered at the hands of a brutal regime. It is also a wake-up call for the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Europe, which could all end up the big losers in this Middle East power play.
Assad’s dramatic turnaround has been facilitated by an unholy trinity of Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia. Hezbollah has entered the war in a big way by sending large groups of fighters to help the Syrian army push back rebel militia groups, particularly along the border with Lebanon. During the last few weeks, Hezbollah made a key difference in the bitter battle for Al Qusayr, near the strategic city of Homs.