A U.N.-Arab League peacekeeping team has touched down in Syria, where monitors hope to lay the groundwork for a mission aimed at ending the violence in that country.
Activists say government forces are launching fresh attacks daily, despite Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s agreement to a ceasefire, part of a peace plan brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
The revolution that sparked, then blazed across the Arab World reached Syria in March of 2011. When residents took to the streets to protest the torture of students, the government responded with heavy force. Anti-government demonstrations quickly spread.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his well-armed military have kept a tight grip on power for more than a year. But many analysts say the regime’s days are numbered.
Marius Deeb is a professor of Middle East studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
Reporter: "Do you think Assad will survive?"
Deeb: "I don’t think so."
Reporter: "Why not?"
Deeb: "Because he has at least a minimum 80 percent of the population against him. It might take a long time for him to fall but he is not going to survive."
Assad and much of the country’s ruling elite belong to the Alawite sect, a minority in the mostly Sunni country.
Of late, Syria has few friends in the Arab world. Arab nations have pledged $100 million dollars to pay opposition fighters and the Obama administration has agreed to send communications equipment.
“The world will not waiver," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "Assad must go. And the Syrian people must be free to choose their own path forward.”:
Some analysts have derided the prospects of a peace plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan, which calls on the government to implement a cease-fire on April 10, with opposition forces following suit. But Middle East Institute Scholar Daniel Serwer thinks it’s a step in the right direction.
“Continuation of the violence is not in the American interest, it’s not in the Syrian interest, it's not in the international community’s interest,” said Serwer.
Long-time ally Iran will stay by Syria’s side, analysts say, but some predict Russia may abandon its traditional friend.
“Their [the Russians] primary concerns will be port access and arms sales and at some point a dictator who is on his way out is in no position to guarantee those things,” added Serwer.
Analysts expect that the opposition in Syria will gain further international support, and they urge rebels to assure minority groups they won’t be persecuted. Most agree that the discontent with Assad has grown beyond what he can control.