The objections of Russia and China also effectively watered down Annan's blueprint for transition at a conference in Geneva last weekend. It grants Assad an effective veto over any interim government candidate he opposes. The opposition would gain the same power.
The formula could lead to a stalemate that plays into Assad's hands, leaving him in power while his security forces persist in what Western nations and human rights groups have described as gross human rights violations. Activists reported at least 26 people killed across Syria on Thursday in clashes between troops and rebels and government shelling across the country. They say more than 14,000 people have been killed since the revolt began.
The path to a post-Assad Syria is complicated and treacherous.
A year after President Barack Obama and many European and Arab leaders issued blanket statements calling for an end to the four-decade Assad dynasty, they now are left looking for piecemeal advances against a regime continuing to command sufficient support — at least to hold on to power, if not snuff out the rebellion — among Syria's minorities, business elite and military.
Syrian opposition groups who gathered with Arab countries earlier this week in Cairo have struggled to find unity. They are hoping their six-page "vision" for transition, complete with details on a new parliament and constitution, will allay fears that the Sunni militants leading the fight against the regime mean to grab all the power.