What Can the European Union Do in Syria?

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The Syrian Revolution turning into civil war
More than two years ago the Syrian Revolution started as a popular and largely peaceful protest against the brutal dictatorship of the Assad regime and the Baath Party. Even now, although the revolution has turned into a violent struggle for power, the popular call for rights, human dignity and a free and inclusive Syria are still part and parcel of the revolutionary movement. Yet, in two years time, the Revolution has turned into a civil war.
Although the Assad-regime still clings to power in part of the country, in particular the Damascus and coastal regions, the struggle for the future of Syria after Assad has already started. The Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC), led by Mouaz al Khatib, has broad support among civil activists and can count on the loyalty of armed groups loosely organised under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army. Yet, other armed groups, including Salafist and specific Kurdish armed groups do not share the loyalty to the SOC. The Salafist armed groups, in particular al Nusra, although still a minority in the revolutionary movement, are better armed and gaining ground. Clashes between different armed groups have already taken place in parts of the country. The Assad regime itself is withdrawing its army more to the Damascus-region, the coastal areas and the main roads to the coast and Beirut, leaving other parts of the country to regime-loyal armed groups. The USA and Jordan have accelerated training of Syrian Opposition forces amid concerns that moderate forces may be overtaken by extremist forces in southern Syria. Even if the Assad regime will lose its power in Damascus, the role of the regime-loyal armed groups, the Shabiha, might not be over.

Image removed.Conclusions and Policy Recommendations Based on the Workshop ‘The Responsibility to Protect in Syria'