By Ray Fleming

Take a quick look at the other side of this page and the “One Year Ago” item from the New York Times that the Obama administration was anticipating the early fall of Syria's President Assad. An audacious attack by rebels had killed four of Assad's leading generals at the National Security headquarters and others were occupying parts of the capital Damascus.

Assad has not fallen and some well-informed observers believe he is gathering strength with weapons from Russia and on-the-ground assistance from the Lebanese Hezbollah militias who recently seized the town of Qusayr from the rebels. Add disagreements and actual fighting among some elements of the rebel forces and there is reason to think that Assad can probably secure Damascus as the centre of the rump of what was once Syria.

The prospect of peace talks proposed by Russia and the United States are fading while the refugee problem in Syria itself and its neighbours is almost tragically out of control.

British policy on assistance of any kind to the rebels seems uncertain. Yesterday the retiring head of the Armed Forces, General Sir David Richards, warned against involvement in Syria. But last Monday the Times main headline read “Cameron's wife turns up pressure over Syria” over a report that Samantha is pushing her husband to do more there. What on earth are we supposed to think about that?

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