Urged by the west, Syrian opposition groups dismissed Assad’s offer of free elections, as also happened in Libya. They claimed that Assad would have rigged the elections, which is doubtful since internationally observed elections can be rigged to the tune of no more than 20%. Thus they recognize that Assad remains reasonably popular.
Reportedly, the Russians have agreed to the American plan to remove Assad, something that we find extremely doubtful. The Russians are not crazy enough to abandon an exceptionally friendly ruler who provides them with a navy base and a foothold in Lebanon and Palestine in favor of a government which would report to Saudi Arabia, whose Wahhabite mentality is alien to the Russians, who have long been fighting Chechens and who hate Caucasian Muslims.
Some 500 young loyalists from Shabiha are dead, a certain sign of intense fighting. Yet Assad shrinks from using real force against the insurgents—unlike his late father, who cannonaded the city of Hama, causing 20,000 deaths. The low number of casualties and the minimal use of force incite people to revolt because they can afford to be brave. As the Hama episode demonstrates, even a much larger death toll than the current 1,400 (merely 250 per month) would not delegitimize the ruler.
Assad would be wrong to believe American promises. Bush promised to support Israeli settlement blocs; he also promised Gadhafi safety in return for dismantling his nuclear program. Obama violated both of these promises, and would likewise violate any promise he might make to Assad now.