BEIRUT – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will run for re-election this year and no longer faces a threat of being overthrown, the head of his Lebanese Shi'ite ally Hezbollah said in an interview published on Monday.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, whose fighters have been supporting Assad inside Syria, also said that after three years of conflict the danger of the country fragmenting was receding.
Assad has lost control of large swathes of northern and eastern Syria to Syrian Islamist rebels and foreign jihadis. But his forces, backed by Hezbollah, Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim fighters and Iranian military commanders, have driven rebels back from around Damascus and secured most of central Syria.
"In my estimation, the phase of overthrowing the regime and overthrowing the state is over," Nasrallah told Al-Safir newspaper, adding that he believed Assad would put himself forward for a third presidential term in a vote due by July.
"It's natural that he nominates himself, and I believe that will happen," Nasrallah said of the planned vote expected to take place despite ongoing conflict and massive displacement within Syria. Assad's international foes have said the poll would be a "parody of democracy.”
Rebels "cannot overthrow the regime (but) they can wage a war of attrition," Nasrallah said. “The real danger was, and still is to a certain extent, the end of Syria, its fragmentation. The danger was real and serious... I think we have passed the danger of fragmentation."
More than 150,000 people have been killed in Syria's civil war, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. A third of those were pro-Assad forces, including 364 Hezbollah fighters, it said.