In their view ...

Published:

President Bashar al-Assad's security forces are continuing to kill Syrians in huge numbers, but the opposition's chances of prevailing look better than they did six months ago. The challenge for the United States and its partners is not just to step up the pressure, but also to prepare the ground for a constructive future for Syria.

The opposition scored a psychological victory on Monday when Prime Minister Riyad Farid Hijab defected to Jordan. Opposition leaders said that he brought along at least two ministers and three military officers. Hijab, a Sunni Muslim, wasn't part of Assad's inner circle, but he was the most senior civilian official and his defection is another sign of stress on the regime. ...

The most viable diplomatic solution was a plan by the United Nations and the Arab League that would have eased Assad out of power and begun a democratic transition. But Russia -- with Iran, Assad's main protector -- ensured it would fail by arming the regime and refusing to impose sanctions.

The Obama administration and NATO have wisely resisted direct military involvement. ...

For months, the administration has been increasing its involvement with the rebels -- organizing a 130-nation pressure group, working to unify opposition factions, helping them plan a political transition, providing intelligence and medical aid and vetting which groups are extremists and which should get arms.

The administration has also begun to think beyond Assad's fall by planning how to cope with a new wave of refugees, maintain basic municipal services, restart a devastated economy and prevent the security forces from disintegrating. American officials seem to have learned the lesson of Iraq, where the government collapsed, leaving chaos behind. There is no guarantee Syria's rebels will want the help, but the administration has to be prepared to invest real money in these plans if they do. ...

The New York Times

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