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11 Key Things You Should Know About the Bloodshed in Syria

A primer gives the key aspects of the Syrian uprising, from the international response to the legitimacy of the opposition.

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4. Why hasn’t the uprising been more successful?

The Syrian uprising has faced unique challenges that have prevented it from reaching the same critical mass as its counterparts in Tunisia and Egypt. The Assad regime has managed to maintain the support – or at least the silence – of a sizable portion of the Syrian populace, and has been largely successful in projecting an image of itself as the last line of defense for Syria’s heterogeneous ethnic and religious communities.

This problem is compounded by the increasing militarization of the conflict. As the FSA has gained prominence, the nonviolent mass demonstrations of 2011 have nearly vanished. There are reports of increasing disillusionment with the armed opposition, and many have complained that their revolution has been “hijacked” by the rebels.

The armed opposition itself has been overwhelmingly outmatched by Syrian security forces, which still enjoys far superior numbers, weaponry and organization. Many observers warn that even with accelerated arms shipments from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, it is unlikely that the FSA will develop the capacity to directly counter the Syrian security forces in armed combat.

5. What options are available for the global community?

As international opinion has coalesced against the Syrian regime, world actors have struggled to determine a course of action to bring down Bashar Al-Assad. The U.S. has convened a “Friends of Syria” group, but the various countries involved have largely disagreed on the extent and substance of international involvement. Some, most notably Saudi Arabia, have advocated direct military involvement to support the SNC. The U.S. and most other states have preferred to take a more moderate approach, supplying nonlethal aid to the rebels while working to undermine the Syrian government. Most countries have agreed, however, to the heavy sanctions levied by the United States, aimed at cutting off the regime’s ability to fund its repressive security apparatus.

6. How effective has international intervention been?

The results of foreign involvement in Syria have been mixed at best. Though it is yet to be seen whether or not the sanctions will effectively starve off the Syrian government’s resources, it has undoubtedly contributed to an acute humanitarian crisis in Syria, rapidly inflating the prices of basic necessities like flour, gas and cooking oil.

The scope of international intervention – particularly US intervention –has also been deeply compromised by widespread mistrust of foreign involvement. Syrians have watched the continuing violence in Libya, the chaos in Iraq and U.S. posturing on Palestine with a wary eye. Polling shows record low support for U.S. involvement in the Arab world.

The Assad government has also used U.S. involvement to bolster its credentials as a member of the “resistance axis,” and blames much of the violence on an international conspiracy to undermine the regime’s opposition to Israel. Though the Israelis themselves seem remiss to see Assad go, this narrative has proven surprisingly successful within Syria itself.

7. What is the status of the Annan plan?

The 6-point peace plan articulated by Kofi Annan is still officially the internationally supported mechanism by which to end to violence in Syria, but its future relevance is far from certain.

The recent rounds of regime violence, which have taken the lives of several hundred Syrians in the past two weeks alone, have intensified an already pervasive discourse in Washington that the Annan plan is dead, and needs to be replaced by a new course of action, presumably led by the U.S.

No one is certain what course of action Washington intends to take, but many have been speaking about a Yemen-style transition model, which would involve a safe exit for Assad and a temporary stewardship under a senior regime official, to pave the way for future elections.

 
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