Forging Syria’s Opposition

TEL AVIV – Syria’s crisis is now a year old, with close to 10,000 people, mostly civilians, dead and no end in sight. The country is at a stalemate: the opposition is unable to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and Assad’s forces are unable to quash the resistance.

Both sides are adamant: the opposition is determined to bring down a regime that it views as illegitimate, sectarian, corrupt, tyrannical, and stained with blood, while the regime’s hard-line core believes that by persevering it will ultimately silence the opposition, whereas any concession would jeopardize its very existence. Its downfall, they believe, would mean dispossession and death for the regime’s leadership and for a large part of the minority Alawite community from which it is drawn.

Assad and his cohorts are encouraged by the world’s failure to respond effectively to their brutal suppression of the revolt in Homs, and have proceeded to inflict vicious punishment on its survivors as a warning to opponents elsewhere. This may cow some of Syria’s civilian population in the short term, but it will serve only to exacerbate popular rage, and thus to increase the prospect of a bloody reckoning with Assad and his cronies down the line.

Today’s brutal stalemate is likely to continue for some time. Diplomatic and humanitarian missions led by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and current UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos seem as ineffective as earlier efforts by the international community and the Arab League to mitigate the conflict or to facilitate a political solution.