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CIAO Focus, March 2012: The Syrian Uprising

One year into the Syrian uprising, the level of death and destruction is reaching new heights. Yet, outside actors – whether regime allies or opponents – remain wedded to behaviour that risks making an appalling situation worse. Growing international polarisation simultaneously gives the regime political space to maintain an approach – a mix of limited reforms and escalating repression – that in the longer run is doomed to fail; guarantees the opposition’s full militarisation, which could trigger all-out civil war; and heightens odds of a regional proxy war that might well precipitate a dangerous conflagration. Kofi Annan’s appointment as joint UN/Arab League Special Envoy arguably offers a chance to rescue fading prospects for a negotiated transition. It must not be squandered. For that, Russia and others must understand that, short of rapidly reviving a credible political track, only an intensifying military one will remain, with dire consequences for all.

Even if the regime can survive for some time, it has become virtually impossible to see how it can ultimately prevail or restore normalcy. It might not fall, but it would become a shadow of itself, an assortment of militias fighting a civil war. Today, it continues to enjoy substantial military superiority over the opposition (a reflection of its monopoly on heavy weaponry and a still substantial reservoir of troops, security officials and civilian proxies) and for the most part has succeeded in both containing peaceful protests and fending off armed groups. Yet, it has been unable to achieve sustained progress anywhere in the country. Its conduct on the ground – including excessive use of force by regular troops, the security sector’s sectarian behaviour, persistent resort to civilian proxies, horrendous treatment of detainees and indiscriminate punishment of entire swathes of the population – precludes even a semblance of normalisation.

--International Crisis Group


From the CIAO Database:

Now or Never: A Negotiated Transition for Syria

Uncharted Waters: Thinking Through Syria's Dynamics

Syria's 'National Dialogue' Lacks Credibility

Regional Dynamics of the Syrian Uprising: The Impact on Lebanon and Hezbollah

Baghdad's Wary Support for the Syrian Status Quo

Watching from the Sidelines: Israel and the Syrian Uprising

CIAO Atlas: Syria


Outside Sources: *

Beyond the Fall of the Syrian Regime (MERIP) 

Crisis in Syria (International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect)

Guide: Syria Crisis (BBC News)

Syria: The War Within (Al-Jazeera)

Syria (The Guardian)

Unrest in Syria and U.S. Sanctions Against the Asad Regime

* Outside links are not maintained. For broken outside links, CIAO recommends the Way Back Machine.