The days of the totalitarian regime of Bashar Assad in Syria are numbered.
The center of gravity of the conflict is the populace's belief in the illegitimacy of the government and support for the opposition, despite fear of retribution from the Assad regime. The conflict will soon move from political to sectarian, if the Alawite-minority Assad regime does not step down soon. Assad is fighting a losing internal conflict and may turn the conflict into a sectarian bloodbath.
Should the regime somehow prevail (by killing tens of thousands more), it would enjoy political support from no more than 30 percent of the population, given that Syria is 70% Sunni and only 20% Alawite, Shi'a and Druze, and 10% Christian.
There are five likely futures for Syria, and none of them involve Assad:
1. Assad flees and those Alawite members of the regime who remain pledge to join and cooperate with the new (Sunni-dominated) Free Syrian Army (FSA) government (the optimal, ideal, Western-driven future, although sadly there is no evidence the United States is pursuing such an outcome).
Alawite members of the Republican Guard, the Syrian Scientific Research Center (which controls the Syrian chemical and biological weapons program) and the private militias (the Shabiha) all agree to take orders from the new government as long as their minority status is protected and they have a say in the new government. The SSRC maintains control of all WMD and cooperates with Western demands to eliminate Syrian WMD (much like what occurred in Libya).
2. Assad resigns at the direction of Russia, which creates a new Syrian government (a Russian-driven future). A UN-Russian plan creates a transitional government made up of FSA members and current regime elements, made possible and heavily influenced by Russia, which wishes to maintain a favored-nation status with the new Syrian government, which affords Russia special influence for pulling Assad. The United States is largely shut out of the new government, given the perception that the United States was indifferent to the opposition.
3. Assad flees at the direction of Iran (an Iran-driven future). A UN plan creates a transitional government made up of FSA members and current regime elements, but one that is heavily influenced behind the scenes in Syria by Iran, which wishes to keep Syria a client state and to continue to support Lebanese Hezbollah through Syria. The United States is largely shut out, given the perception that the United States was indifferent to the opposition.
4. Assad flees or is killed and leaves behind chaos (a "no one is driving" future). The FSA takes over the country; the Alawites are purged from the new government. There is a scramble among the FSA, al-Qaida in Syria, Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran to secure and control Syrian chemical and biological weapons and shape the new government. The outcome of such violence is uncertain. There is no sympathy for the United States, given the perception that the United States was indifferent to the opposition.