"The popular-uprising-turned-armed-rebellion in Syria has entered its third year, and seems poised to continue, with the government and a bewildering array of militias locked in a bloody struggle of attrition. U.S. officials and many analysts believe that Asad and his supporters will ultimately be forced from power, but few offer specific, credible timetables for a resolution to the crisis. Opposition forces are formidable, but forces loyal to President Bashar al Asad continue to resist, using air strikes, artillery, and pro-government militias in punishing counterattacks. U.S. officials believe that the capacity of government forces is eroding but also believe that fighting would likely continue even if opposition groups achieve their objective of toppling Asad. Some members of the Sunni Arab majority and of ethnic and sectarian minority groups view the conflict in communal, zero-sum terms. Many observers worry that a further escalation in fighting or swift regime change could jeopardize the security of chemical and conventional weapons stockpiles, threaten minority groups, or lead to wider civil or regional conflict. […] After two years of unrest and violence, the central question for policy makers remains how best to bring the conflict in Syria to a close before the crisis consigns the region to one of several destructive and destabilizing scenarios. The human toll of the fighting, and the resulting political, ethnic, and sectarian polarization, all but guarantee that political, security, humanitarian, and economic challenges will outlast Asad and keep Syria on the U.S. agenda for years to come."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33487