BEIRUT — A top Syrian cleric's appeal to young men to join the army raised the question of whether President Bashar Assad is running out of soldiers, prompting a pro-government newspaper to reassure readers Tuesday that the military can keep fighting insurgents for years to come.
Syria's civil war, with its large-scale defections, thousands of soldiers killed and multiple fronts, has eroded one of the Arab world's biggest armies, with pro-Assad militias increasingly filling in for troops.
But while the rebels have scored military and diplomatic gains, the regime is far from its breaking point.
Assad appears to have stopped trying to retake all of the rebel-held areas, lacking the manpower to do so. But his forces have pinned down opposition fighters with artillery and airstrikes, while repelling rebel assaults on the capital of Damascus and other regime strongholds.
In this scenario, the regime can hang on for months, said Joseph Holliday, a Syria analyst at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. "The opposition is definitely ascendant, and Bashar is going down, (but) it's a question of time," he said.
Syria's troop strength moved into the spotlight with a call for a general mobilization by Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddine Hassoun, the country's top state-appointed Sunni Muslim cleric and Assad loyalist. He told state TV on Sunday that Syrians must rally to defend their country against a "global conspiracy."
- AirAsia plane carrying 162 lost in stormy...
- Cancer patient turns big goodbye to wedding...
- Box Office: 'Hobbit' wins Christmas, 'Big...
- Heroes 2014: Meet the disruptive visionary...
- Q&A on what might have happened to AirAsia...
- Yes-We-Can president faces twilight of maybes
- Key developments in disappearance of AirAsia jet
- What the Senate’s tax break extensions...
- Obama 's Christmas in Hawaii: Carols,... 16
- Yes-We-Can president faces twilight of... 14
- On Christmas, Obama marks end of Afghan... 13
- Officer kills armed 18-year-old near... 11
- N. Korea compares Obama to monkey in... 10
- Senate, CIA agree torture program was... 7
- Largest quarterly GDP growth since 2003... 7
- Jeb Bush to step down from Tenet... 5