Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) attends an interview with al-Watan newspaper in Damascus, Syria, in this handout picture provided by SANA on December 8, 2016. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
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When President Bashar Assad turns from the wreckage of Aleppo to assert his authority across a fractured Syria, it will be as a figure who is virtually unassailable by rebels, but still faces great challenges in restoring the power of his state.However, the battlefield victories that seem – for now – to have secured Assad's rule have been won in large part not by his own depleted military, but by Russian warplanes and a shock force of foreign Shiite fighters backed by Iran."Syria has suffered such wounds that there will always be, in my expectation, a day of reckoning," said Nikolaos Van Dam, a former Dutch diplomat and author of a book about Syrian history and politics, speaking about the future of Assad's state.To his supporters, Assad is the one, indispensable figure standing between his country and absolute chaos, the resolute leader of a war against foreign-backed militants who wish to slaughter minorities and launch attacks on other states.In making further military gains after Aleppo, Assad will continue to rely on both Moscow's air power and the ground force supplied by Iran and the Shiite fighters it sponsors, foremost among them the Lebanese group Hezbollah.
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