"... At first, any talks would have to focus on getting Assad, his security chiefs, and his top generals to step down and leave the country. The ultimate goal would be the reunification of the country within a democratic and decentralized structure that recognized regional differences. Ideally, Syria’s current division into 14 provinces would be maintained. But in areas of the country that are less ethnically homogeneous, such as the province of Homs, the provinces might have to be split ... .... Much of what Washington envisages in Syria may not go according to plan. American bullets could find their way into Salafi Kalashnikovs, and American radios could fall into the hands of those preaching hatred. Violence and massacres could delay or prevent elections in some areas. And the conflict could remain a stalemate for years to come, with no side gaining the decisive upper hand. The United States’ commitment to any one facet of this plan should not be open ended, and Washington will need to continually evaluate how well it is meeting its objectives.
Despite the many risks, it is important that the United States continue to help parts of the Syrian opposition on the ground take power -- and not attempt to give power to those in exile who promise much but can in fact deliver little. Given the degree of Syria’s meltdown and the country’s strategic importance, standing idly by is the worst option. Establishing a stronger relationship with the opposition is what will best allow the United States to shape an outcome among the warring parties that suits its interests and those of its allies and provides a better future for the Syrian people."