Juan Cole summarizes the state of play after an intensification in violence:
[T]he extremeness of the violence in at least part of the capital this weekend marks a new level of challenge to the regime, and the very perseverence of the uprising all these long months, with the violence now spreading to the capital, bodes ill for the survival of President Bashar al-Assad. The high officer corps is loyal to the regime, being either relatives of the president or drawn from the same Allawi, Shiite sect as he. But the more brutal his army’s tactics, the less legitimacy he retains, and the brutality necessary to repress keeps being ratcheted up… [T]he more brutal the regime becomes, and the more unpopular, the more Russia risks taking a big fall in the whole Arab world if the Baath collapses.
The smart money increasingly appears to be planning for a Syria without Assad: US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate that Assad is going down — that it was a matter of when, not if — but it might be a while. The signs point to a protracted violent conflict even as the UN Security Council process appears blocked. Rebel forces have brought the fight to Damascus and Aleppo, but if rebel military forces melt away, the movement to oust Assad could lose political and international momentum as well. So far, the rebels seem equal to the contest; if anything, they are gaining ground as more soldiers defect.
Tariq Alhomayed nods. Ed Husain suggests this gives us reason to lay off the intervention speculation while Justin Vela deepens doubts about the Syrian opposition. Of course, as this harrowing dispatch from Homs reminds us, the fighting isn't stopping while the UN debates. These videos help make that clear:
Here's an anti-Russia protest:
Here's another one in Damascus:
(Photo: An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on January 29, 2012 shows armed men, said to be members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), standing guard in a street in the central town of Rastan in the Homs province. Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi is fighting an uphill battle to court Russia and China to win their support at the United Nations for the latest Arab plan aimed at ending the bloodshed in Syria. By AFP/Getty Images.)