The fighting words from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, who vowed Tuesday to hold on to power and crush his opponents with “an iron fist”, were optimistically interpreted by some as the bluster of a doomed man. To be sure, the speech echoed some of the themes of Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s valedictory rants in the months before his ouster and murder. And the Syrian regime’s ongoing violence against demonstrators, even in the presence of Arab League monitors to whose organization Assad had pledged to halt repression, underscored the unlikelihood of the crisis being resolved through reform and dialogue. Almost a year later, the rebellion remains resilient, and it is increasingly turning to arms, as deserters from the regime’s forces mount an insurgency. But despite the mounting carnage and diminishing hopes for a political solution, the foreign military intervention that tipped the balance against Gaddafi is not likely to be repeated in Syria, and Assad may yet remain in power for quite some time. His strategy? Militarizing the conflict and framing it in sectarian terms, while casting himself as the protector standing between important segments of Syrian society and the things they fear most.