Developments are shifting hour-to-hour on the ground in Syria as fierce fighting continues, but a consistent overall narrative has taken hold in the press: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is going down, its just a question of how long, and how bloody, the campaign will be.
A major battle is underway in Aleppo, the country's economic and population hub. Media reports indicate the city is broke up into rebel and government-controlled sections, and government forces have resorted to aerial bombardments. There are checkpoints dotting the city, and residents caught in the middle could find themselves detained-- or worse.
Fighters under siege in Aleppo are reportedly frustrated that the civilian population has not thrown its full weight behind the rebellion. An increasing divide now exists between the rural (mostly Sunni Arab) fighters who kicked off the rebellion and the more cosmopolitan, diverse population of Aleppo, who have only recently been subject to violence on their streets. Many of the most committed fighters--- some adorned with Koranic verse tattoos, others adopting Salafist beards-- bemoan those civilians in Aleppo who have yet to declare their allegiance and take up arms against the government.
If Homs and Hama can rise up against Assad, the fighters believe so too must all of Aleppo. If and when this transpires, it could be a turning point in the Syrian Civil War and harken the true downward spiral for Assad.
Meanwhile, the international community is content to allow the Syrian insurrection to proceed without much official western aid. But Iran, on the other hand, is doubling down on its Alawite client state. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently told the press that Iran is going so far as to be building a militia inside Syria to support Assad's embattled forces.
The conflict is increasingly becoming a regional issue as it spills over Syria's borders. There have also been cross-border kidnapping incidents this week between Shia families in Lebanon and Sunni rebels in Syria. While both parties appear to want to downplay the significance of these events-- telling the press they are a tribal dispute-- they are likely a harbinger of things to come. No matter what their preferred policies, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and other neighboring states could get pulled into the conflict in ways nobody can fully anticipate.
And while Assad's downfall appears increasingly inevitable to most analysts, questions remain about what comes next:
- Can Assad turn the situation around?
- Is there a point at which he would be willing to deploy chemical weapons against his own people?
- What is the true character of the Syrian rebel resistance?
- Who is most likely to emerge from the ruins of Assad's state to lead a new Syria?
- Will this become another de facto victory for the hardline Islamists in the region?
We will tackle these questions and more on Real News at 6 PM EST on GBTV. Tune in, and tweet us your thoughts and questions.