Syrian President Bashar Assad and his allies are showing renewed confidence that the momentum in the civil war is shifting in their favor, due in part to the rapid rise of al-Qaida-linked extremists among the rebels and the world's reluctance to intervene in the fighting.

His regime has gone on the offensive on the ground and in its portrayal of the conflict as a choice between Assad and the extremists.

Several factors appear to have convinced Assad he can weather the storm: Two years into the uprising, his regime remains firmly entrenched in Damascus, the defection rate from the military has dwindled, and international supporters Russia and China are still solidly on his side.

The regime also has benefited from audio distributed last month in which the head of the extremist Jabhat al-Nusra group, one of the most powerful and effective rebel groups in Syria, pledged allegiance to al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

After dropping largely out of sight following an hour-long speech in January, Assad has appeared in two TV interviews in the past month. His wife, Asma, appeared in public in March for the first time in months, surrounded by women and children for a function honoring mothers.

"I can say, without exaggeration, that the situation in Syria now is better than it was at the beginning of the crisis," Assad told state-run broadcaster Al-Ikhbariya on April l7.

"With time, people became more aware of the dangers of what was happening. ... They started to gain a better understanding of the real Syria we used to live in and realized the value of the safety, security and harmony, which we used to enjoy," he added.

On Wednesday, Assad was shown on state TV visiting a Damascus power station just a day after a bombing in the capital and two days after his prime minister escaped an assassination attempt.

"They want to scare us; we will not be scared. ... They want us to live underground; we will not live underground," Assad told a group of workers gathered around him.

Since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011, Assad's regime has tried to portray the movement as being driven by what it called terrorists and foreign-backed mercenaries.