On Wednesday, four Syrian regime officials were killed in a declared suicide bombing attack at the national security headquarters in Damascus. It’s clear that political change is necessary as Syria is under intensifying pressure, what is unclear is if there is even an end for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Fighting in Damascus does not signal Assad’s downfall, although this incident is a serious sign the next action could be the most significant turning point.
The Syrian conflict has prolonged due to the region’s distinct insecurity. The majority of the Syrian people are still divided over the direction of the conflict and the desired outcome. There is not a distinct consensus over the direction for change within Syria, and there is a growing mixed collaboration between the rebels and the government security forces. However, this war is not just an internal war; it has become a regional and international proxy war. External powers are funding money, weapons, and intelligence to both respective sides. Power and division on all three fronts is what allows Syria to remain in conflict, and what has facilitated such a dramatic escalation in violence over the past few weeks.
Russia seems to be the last viable option to convince all sides to manage political change. The U.S. has so far refrained from becoming directly involved, and has not indirectly been able to restore stability in Syria. If the U.S. and Russia can manage to reach an agreement within the UN, there is still hope of a possible political solution. Ideally, this would entail setting up some sort of a transitional government that would not necessarily put an end to Assad, but reconstruct the hierarchy of the government with members from both supporters and the opposition. A transition could happen before further devastating consequences would occur, but Russia is running out of time to take the lead.
Most likely, there will be a heavy response to this incident. Assad’s regime is still somehow intact, and has yet to fully demonstrate the regime’s military capabilities. It is very clear that Damascus will not be relinquished without a fight. Change is needed and still possible, but not for much longer. Syria is becoming more isolated from the region, and it is difficult to figure out what is exactly happening on the ground because of conflicting reports from rebels and officials. The battle over Damascus will most likely be very gruesome, but regardless it still does not provide a conclusion.
Wednesday's event could lead the conflict to go dramatically one way over the other. Best case scenario: the international community can quickly devise a clear plan for a transitional government. Worst case scenario: the world will witness the Syrian conflict fall into a brutal civil and possibly regional war. All sides seem to understand that outside intervention would be the most destructive option, and the U.S. should now focus on constructing a concrete political solution. If this happens, the worst could actually be avoided. If not we should prepare for serious conflict in Syria, neighboring Lebanon, and other parts of the region.