Reports that the United States and its Arab and Western allies are discussing ways to place high-ranking Syrian defector Brigadier General Manaf Tlass at the center of the political transition reflect a new sense of urgency that has gripped the international community. The possibility that the regime may fall sooner rather than later has focused new attention on the post-Assad battle for Syria and increased pressure to find someone who might provide greater order and stability during what is likely to be a bloody and chaotic transition.

As the Assad regime has turned its attention to restoring state control over Damascus and Aleppo, its grip on other areas of the country has weakened. The full centrifugal forces of an increasingly sectarian civil war have begun to break loose with predictable results—more civilian deaths, more refugees and a greater threat of instability to Syria's neighbors. De facto geographic partition and even warlordism are the most likely outcomes of a fractious fight for control of the country as the regime collapses.