At worst, they see a sectarian bloodbath and a possible takeover by extremists fighting on the side of rebel military forces.

Many Syrian activists believe the United States and Europe have exacerbated the challenges by forbidding interactions with the armed opposition in the country while Assad is still in power…

Others say that U.S. humanitarian assistance to Syria, provided indirectly and largely invisibly through non-governmental organizations, has had only a negligible effect in the conflict and that massive reconstruction aid planned for the day after Assad’s fall will come too late to win Syrian hearts and minds…

“If we speculate that the regime collapses soon, we have to recognize that we would see a period of fairly intense political competition in which actors on the ground who had established credibility would have a significant advantage” over anyone or anything coming from the outside, Heydemann said. “Military commanders in many cases would assert their authority, at least temporarily.”