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Many Skeptical Syria Cease-Fire Will Hold

Jeff Swicord

An uneasy cease-fire took hold in Syria Thursday between government forces and rebel militias, But there is widespread skepticism that it will last.

As the world waits to see if envoy Kofi Annan's brokered cease-fire will hold, Syrian opposition activists say while they support his efforts, they do not believe the plan will ultimately succeed.   

"We wanted to give them a little time despite the fact that so many people are dying on the ground and in the streets that it is necessary to give the international community some time to find out if diplomacy is not going to work," explained Syrian activist Ammar Abdulhamid.

The government of Bashar al-Assad says it will honor the cease-fire with conditions: it reserves the right to defend itself against what it says are the terrorists behind the uprising.  

If the fighting does resume, many are asking what next?  

Russia and China have blocked action by the United Nation Security Council.  The Obama administration has offered humanitarian assistance and communications equipment.  

But while visiting a refugee camp in Turkey this week, U.S. Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman said the Annan plan is failing, and called for arming the opposition.  

"The only way to reverse this situation is by helping the Syrian opposition to change the military balance of power on the ground," said McCain.

Some in the opposition say that neither diplomacy nor military force alone will bring down the Assad government.  Ammar Abdulhamid says they must be used together.

"When there is an actual threat of force or force being used, I think then we might see the possibility of the Assads listening because they can see a threat," Abdulhamid added.  "They can see the seriousness of the international community.  They don't just hear words."

But there are concerns about arming the opposition.

Emira Woods with the progressive Institute for Policy Studies says arming opposition factions is impossible to control.

"We have to learn the lessons of Libya.  Clearly armaments sent from NATO and the U.S. have now found their way into unexpected places including in Mali, where those arms are playing a role in what is clearly a rebellion in the northern part of the country," Woods explained.

Others argue the timing is wrong for the United States to get heavily involved in Syria.

"We strongly support sanctions, pressure on the regime, non-lethal assistance for the opposition, diplomatic support, humanitarian support.  But at this point we oppose arms, and we oppose direct U.S. intervention," said James Phillips, a Middle East analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Government opponents say they are ready to test Syria's government by staging peaceful demonstrations. Massive protests led to the government crackdown last year as violence spiraled.

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