However, that is the outcome that the Syrian authorities fear the most. If Syrian security forces and heavy armor are withdrawn from cities, the opposition protesters emboldened by the presence of UN observers could resume anti-regime demonstrations with even greater vigor than the initial protests a year ago. If those demonstrations were to spread unchecked to the centers of Damascus and Aleppo, Syria’s two largest cities, the Assad regime would face a very grave situation.
On the other hand, the Syrian opposition is uninterested in another component of Annan’s plan that calls for dialogue with the Syrian authorities. As far as the opposition is concerned, negotiations with the regime are futile unless they are restricted to discussing a speedy end to Assad’s rule, a condition that the Syrian leadership would reject.
“There’s no point in talks with the regime. We have nothing to talk about. We want Assad gone. That’s it,” says Ahmad, a Syrian activist living in hiding in north Lebanon.
Although the Annan plan is still in the early stages of implementation, the pessimism that surrounds it has left policy planners in the US and Europe mulling alternative options should it fail in the weeks ahead. The administration of President Obama has limited its actions toward Syria to rhetoric and sanctions, evidently reluctant to be drawn back into the Middle East only months after ending its military involvement with Iraq and while in the process of drawing down in Afghanistan.