This paper is a summary of the discussions that took place during a small closed-door study group convened at Chatham House in January 2012 to discuss the ongoing situation in Syria.
Key points that emerged from the meeting included:
- The regime is unlikely to survive in the long term but will fight on in the short term. In contrast to its counterparts in several other Arab countries, it has so far remained relatively cohesive in the face of the uprising.
- Continued violence by the regime is leading to the beginning of an armed insurgency. A number of regional and international powers may offer arms and training to opposition groups.
- Nevertheless, the regime has the overwhelming advantage in terms of military capability and may be able to fight on for a year or two unless there is a massive uprising in Damascus and Aleppo, or an intervention.
- The economy is suffering badly from Syria's unrest and international isolation, which could gradually encourage the merchant class to withdraw support from the regime. This is likely to be a critical factor in Aleppo.
- There has been little international appetite for military intervention in Syria, but the regime's intensifying violence could change this. Russia's alliance with Syria has been an obstacle to international action, but Russia will not necessarily support the Assad regime at any price.
- The regime is trying to stoke fears among the international community that if Assad goes, civil war will follow. Yet it is the regime that is responsible for the vast majority of the violence. The international community should not accept the regime's narrative.