After seven months of a brutal government crackdown on protesters that has left nearly 3,000 dead, Assad faces increased economic pressure from the international community and some allies have become critics.
But National Public Radio reports observers say the transition to democracy is more complicated than in other Arab countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya where the shift has begun.
Minority populations comprise 25 percent of Syria's population, among them the Alawites, who have ruled for 40 years and include the Assad family, and the minority Christian community, which dates to the first century and worries about reprisals from the majority Sunni Muslims if Assad falls.
"The minority populations, 25 percent of Syria, and certainly the Alawites, 12 percent, are going to cling to this regime, and they are going to fight to the bitter end," said Josh Landis, an influential blogger on Syria who also teaches at the University of Oklahoma. "And so it will have aspects of ethnic and religious war, as well as democracy-lovers against the tyrants."
In Syria, Landis said, "It's not a simple matter of the good people against the bad dictator, which is the way we've tried to paint all of these stories."
Tarek Masoud of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government said the Obama administration has reportedly begun working with Turkey on how to deal with fallout from a possible civil war in Syria, and the country's neighbors worry as well.
"There are a lot more important players who are invested in the stability of the Syrian regime than were invested in the stability of the Libyan one," Masoud said. "It's going to be harder for the international community to come to any kind of consensus around military action."
Syria has also received cash from Iran to bolster its economy, and Assad is backed by Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim group in Lebanon, where popular new songs praise Assad, NPR says.
At the same time, however, leaders of some Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, have started to turn away from Syria and reject Assad's claim terrorist groups have led the uprising. NPR points out Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has recalled his ambassador to Syria, while the Saudi-backed satellite channel has increased coverage of Syrian security forces' violence against demonstrators.
Still, NPR says, Saudi Arabia doesn't back military intervention in Syria.
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