The regime is raising the ante based on these Western fears, especially in a presidential election year in the US. But then, there is no need for nightmare scenarios: The International Committee of the Red Cross is saying that already there are indications of civil war in parts of the country.
The continuation of the killings in Syria will likely not subside, and things can arguably get even worse, with a spiral of violence radicalizing the society as a whole.
First, it needs to spell out the transition in Syria in explicit terms.
Transition is not what Mr. Assad is doing at the moment, pretending to hold multiparty elections while neighborhoods are being shelled. Nor is it realistic to expect that transition will mean Assad’s upfront resignation as requested by the opposition. Transition should mean an internationally monitored process to establish democratic institutions, through an electoral process conducted in a peaceful environment.
That means a transition that starts with a presidential election within the next six months, prepared through a round table between the Assad government and the opposition as represented by the opposition Syrian National Council (with significant representation in it from the Local Coordination Committees). This round table must be mediated by an international third party. The rough legal preconditions for such a process are already vaguely in place, with a new constitution passed in February that Assad claims opens up the country for democracy.
Second, an updated Annan plan needs to spell out security. In order to conduct a transitional political process, there needs to be a radical change of behavior on the ground. The Army needs to go back to the barracks and stay there, while at the same time the Syrian National Council needs to call for a halt in any insurgent guerrilla activity from the Free Syrian Army.