By calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down and imposing a raft of tough new sanctions, the Obama administration ramped up the diplomatic and economic pressure on Damascus. Still, it's unclear what leverage the U.S. and its allies have to actually force the strongman out of power.
With more and more countries calling for Assad to step down, rather than making reforms, what will a post-Assad Syria look like? Syria's opposition has been repressed for decades, and amid the bloodshed, its leaders are struggling to coalesce. What are the chances that a country like Syria--whose opposition now includes some Alawites, Druze, Christians, the Muslim Brotherhood, secular leaders, local leaders and youth activists--will come together and present a cohesive plan for transition? What are the regional security risks if Syria is made even more unstable by political confusion? What lessons can be learned from turbulent transitions in Tunisia and Egypt?
While several countries withdrew their ambassadors from Syria, U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford remains in Damascus to continue discussions with opposition figures and press the government to heed the U.S. message. Should Ford stay in the country? What can be done to prepare for a post-Assad Syria? How should the U.S. deal with the hodgepodge of opposition figures? The U.S. is very cautious not to appear as if it is interfering in another country's struggle. What can the U.S. do to tread the diplomatic line between supporting protesters and helping a transition to democracy, and being seen as controlling a revolution?