Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has assumed personal command of the military and in spite of numerous signs that his grip of power has loosened significantly, he has vowed to fight to the death to remain in control of the country.
Assad's regime is being propped up by both Iran and Russia while the rebels are backed by the West and various Gulf states, which guarantees that the two sides will have the confidence to fight for every inch for the foreseeable future.
But it's been 19 months since the civil war began, and something's got to give. And when it does, t hese are some possible scenarios:
1) Assad is killed.
If Assad is killed, the regime will likely fall and the rebels could claim victory. That would lead to an attempt at a transitional government, likely composed of members from the newly formed Syrian National Council, despite its immediate problems and the fact that jihadists have been the most organized rebel force up to this point .
The Guardian reports that Free Syrian Army (FSA) joint command spokesman Fahad al-Masrai said someone in Assad's inner circle will off him.
"Bashar will not leave Syria alive," al-Masrai said. " He will be killed but not by the rebel. He is more likely to be assassinated by his close circle. They are beginning to realize the risk of being involved with his crimes, and will get rid of him."
2) It becomes a regional war.
“One of the solutions of the Syrian conflict is to move it outside Syria,” Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, the head of Lebanon’s national police intelligence unit, told The Washington Post a month before he was killed in a car bombing in Beirut . " He survives by making it a regional conflict. "
A truly dangerous scenario would be if it went from a proxy war to a full-blown world war with Iran-Syria-Russia on against the West and its Gulf allies.
3) The U.S. and/or NATO intervenes.
Either because the fighting spilled over into Turkey or Assad's chemical weapons elicit an international response.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) joint command is hopeful there would be a no-fly zone imposed on the border of Syria and Turkey, so direct NATO intervention may be imminent.
"I am certain that a no-fly zone will be first imposed along the Syrian border to depths of between 10km and 20km," Fahad al-Masrai, citing secret talks between the backers of the oppositions and the FSA.
In August President Barack Obama said that Syria would face American military intervention it moved or prepared for use its chemical weapons, and the U.S. has sent troops to the Jordan-Syria border.
4) The Syrian military crumbles.
Syria has already seen a high number of prominent military defections.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Ross Wilson told BI that Syria's central and military authority suddenly falling apart would lead to "catastrophic flows of refugees [and] catastrophic numbers of people to feed and take care of medically" and could lead to the "loss of control of these frightening [chemical] weapons that Assad and his father developed over the course of many years" and/or the destabilization of the entire region.
Syria would then turn into a free-for-all, according to Israeli Arab affairs expert and former intelligence officer Dr. Mordechai Kedar, as the various ethnic groups in the country—including Alawites, Kurds, Druzes, Christians, Sunnis and Salafists—establish their own lands and vie for control in a power vacuum.
5) Assad takes David Cameron's deal.
Last week British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would support granting President Bashar al-Assad a safe passage out of Syria to end the nation's bloodshed. This great compromise is not likely since Assad vowed he would never leave Syria alive, but he could change his mind.
Whatever happens, Syrian civilians have a long road ahead with the country's two largest cities being destroyed in the protracted conflict.
"It will be cold, people won't have food and what is already a deeply suffering country will be suffering quite a bit more," Wilson said.
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