Time may be running out for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, especially if the eight-month civil conflict continues unabated within the country that has always been known as the cradle of Arab nationalism, a view that is widely popular in the Arab world.
The chances of international intervention, as recently sanctioned by the Arab League in Libya and other Arab countries earlier, are unlikely because the western nations are preoccupied with economic crises, and the US is additionally in the midst of a tough election campaign.
But equally significant are the anticipated regional repercussions which can be costly — socially, politically and economically. To date, around 4,000 Syrians have been killed in the bloody suppression of the uprising by the Syrian military, which remains, to a very large extent, beholden to the embattled Syrian president whose family has been running the country for more than 40 years.
Additionally, there is concern that Israel's non-stop agitation about Iran's alleged nuclear potential could lead to a confrontation, apart from its refusal to transfer the $100 million in taxes it collected on behalf of the Palestinian National Authority because of Palestine's recent admission to Unesco.
What is regrettable and surprising is the Syrian president, an ophthalmologist by profession, not cooperating with the Arab League proposal to mediate with the seemingly mushrooming opposition groups within Syria.
Had the Syrian regime gone along, a peaceful future would await all and Syria's suspension from the 22-member Arab League would not have happened.
But what lies ahead is difficult to ascertain at the moment. Syria's borders are undoubtedly threatened. For example, while Syria has maintained a peaceful armistice with Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the Israeli Air Force bombarded an alleged Syrian nuclear station close to the Syrian-Turkish border. The infraction had surprisingly not precipitated a Syrian response.
In fact, the Damascus government continued to cajole Israel to start negotiations in the hope of reaching a peace agreement as had Jordan and Egypt, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned a deaf ear.
There is also more concern nowadays about the relationship between Turkey and Syria which, until the Syrian uprising last March, had been more than cordial. Several Syrians have flocked across the border where many are camping in refugee tents, much to the Turkish government's chagrin. Turkish leaders have time and again appealed in face-to-face meetings with Syrian leaders to pacify the border region, but to no avail. In reaction, Turkey has cut its all-important relationship with the Syrians, including exploration for oil in the border region, a step that was met with great excitement when it was announced.
A step that is likely to anger the Syrian regime is the meeting the Arab League had for the first time last Tuesday with the splintered Syrian opposition groups in the hope that they would unite forces and come up with transitional plans after Al Assad's anticipated downfall.
However, what the League will conclude from its Morocco meeting is still unclear. Its choices range from turning over the Syrian uprising to the United Nations to affirming Syria's suspension from the League.
The suspension has followed guarded, but unofficial, Arab statements that Al Assad should step down although there has been no mention of that in any League statements so far.
In an interview with the BBC, Jordan's King Hussain suggested that the Syrian leader should start a new phase of political life in Syria. "If I were in his shoes," the Jordanian monarch told a questioner, "I would step down." But he went on to elaborate, "I would step down and make sure whoever comes behind me has the ability to change the status quo that we're seeing."
Saudi Prince Turki Al Faisal, the former chief of Saudi intelligence, was more direct when he told the National Press Club in Washington that he thought it "is inevitable that [Al Assad] will have to step down in one form or the other".
These statements followed earlier statements by US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lauding the League's suspension of Syria's membership.
Obama promised that the US "will continue to work with our friends and allies to pressure the Al Assad regime and support the Syrian people as they pursue the dignity and transition to democracy that they deserve".
Clinton was more blunt. She called on the Syrian president "to step aside so a peaceful transition can begin".
George S. Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. He can be contacted at email@example.com.