Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad will inevitably collapse in the face of mounting protests and it is a matter of time before his regime falls, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on Tuesday.
“I personally believe it’s a question of time before Assad falls, but that’s the issue, it could be a long time,” Clapper said at a Senate intelligence committee hearing.
“Protraction of these demonstrations, the opposition continues to be fragmented, but I do not see how he can sustain his rule of Syria,” he told U.S. lawmakers.
The unrest in Syria is of great concern to Iran and Hezbollah, which is “why they are both expending great effort in terms of resources and advice ... in trying to prop up the Assad regime,” Clapper said.
The opposition was “fragmented” but was piling growing pressure on Assad, said Clapper, adding that it remained unclear what would follow after the Syrian leader’s departure.
CIA director David Petraeus, testifying at the same hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also described the Syrian regime as increasingly at risk.
The opposition had displayed “resilience” and the regime now faced challenges in Damascus and Aleppo, two cities that had been seen as insulated from the unrest, said Petraeus, a retired four-star general who served as commander in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I think it has shown indeed how substantial the opposition to the regime is and how it is in fact growing and how increasing areas are becoming beyond the reach of the regime security forces,” he said.
The fall of Assad’s regime would deliver a major blow to Iran, which relies on Syria as a vital logistics link to Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, he said.