4. The Syrian opposition remains fractured. Syrian opposition groups signed a tentative agreement on Nov. 11 that aimed to unite all anti-Assad factions under one umbrella coalition. However, much work remains to be done: The basic challenge facing every single component of the opposition -- starting at the top and cascading down to the smallest local coordinating committee -- lies in the absence of a political program that unites the disparate anti-Assad groups. Although different groups have been working on a "Day After" agenda, there is not yet a common political vision of how to get from now to the day after Assad's fall.
In short, there is a political vacuum and an organizational vacuum at every level of the Syrian opposition. The diverse funding streams available to the opposition have exacerbated this problem, as new political and military formations emerge solely for the purpose of receiving cash. Competition, not collaboration, rules the day -- even inside military councils. As one opposition activist put it to me, "The ranks of the Syrian political opposition swell through further fragmentation."
Some steps are being taken to rectify these problems. The Syrian opposition groups' conference in Doha, Qatar, of course, is a necessary prerequisite to laying the groundwork for a post-Assad Syria. But initiatives are also under way on the ground: Local administrative councils are being established in liberated territories, bringing together local civic activists and military councils in an effort to get government institutions up and running again. The councils' purpose is to help provide Syrians with the services necessary to fulfill their day-to-day needs. It is still too early, however, to judge whether they will succeed in overcoming the infighting and poor organization that has bedeviled the opposition institutions so far.
Absent a game-changer, the violent stalemate in Syria is here to stay. Each side in this conflict believes the momentum favors its own cause, so each is unwilling to strike a deal.
No matter who takes the helm of the Syrian regime in the future, however, they will be forced to deal with an empowered citizenry that will no longer accept being ruled by an iron fist. Assad's regime may not fall tomorrow, but it can no longer rule Syria -- its old levers of control no longer function, and it has proved incapable of significant reform.
On the other hand, the militarization of the conflict has sidelined the activists and civic groups that launched the uprising. The failure -- and the unwillingness -- of the political opposition to articulate a credible road map for a solution ensures that military conflict will be the uprising's default course in the short to medium term, plunging the country deeper into chaos and violence.
In the interim, new actors are emerging in Syria. Jihadi groups in particular are injecting their own agenda into the conflict. Although they are still not as prominent as during the height of the Iraqi civil war, they have the potential to be a major player in a future Syria. In wars, as in evolution, the fittest survive and thrive -- and these groups are, unfortunately, the fittest.