1. Syria: Breaking a Stalemate?

Syria’s civil war has killed upwards of 20,000 people, but the country remains locked in an effective stalemate: the regime of President Bashar Assad is unable to destroy the rebels, and the rebels are unable to destroy the regime. Given the sectarian stakes and the danger of igniting a wider regional conflict, as well as a fear of the growing influence of extremist elements among the rebels, the U.S. has held back from direct intervention, and even from enabling the rebels to receive heavier weaponry that could neutralize some of the regime’s military advantages. Both Obama and Romney say they oppose any direct deployment of U.S. military force in Syria, even if limited to enforcing a “no-fly zone” or protecting a rebel-controlled enclave — much to the frustration of allies such as Turkey and France. The Obama Administration is currently focused on forging a single opposition leadership structure based on a moderate consensus, in order to enable greater foreign support to the rebel cause. Many opposition activists and rebel fighters have expressed dismay and anger at what they see as the relative passivity of the Obama Administration in the face of the increasingly bloody impasse. As a result, the fact that Romney has publicly declared a greater willingness to consider arming the rebels — together with the fact that some of his advisers have expressed more hawkish policies toward Assad and his regime’s key backers, Iran and Russia — may give many in the rebel camp reason to hope the Republican candidate prevails on Tuesday.