Dominic Evans writing for Reuters:
Escalating violence and a vicious cycle of retaliation could leave Syria ungovernable even if a winner finally emerges from President Bashar al-Assad's battle with rebels.
Nearly a year and a half since the uprising erupted, initially as peaceful protests for reform, Assad's forces and their insurgent foes are fighting a messy conflict with no frontline and scant regard for the rules of war.
Assad has deployed air strikes and artillery to pound restive towns into submission, hitting civilian homes and hospitals. Rights groups say his forces have committed massacres. Rebels have shot or slit the throats of captured Assad supporters and hurled corpses off high buildings.
The increasing brutality of the conflict makes any prospect of reconciliation remote and exacerbates sectarian divisions between the mainly Sunni Muslim rebels, Assad's Alawite community, and Christian, Druze and Kurdish minorities.
Assad may already be planning to exploit those divisions to ensure that, if he cannot win outright, no successor could monopolize power in the way that he and his father, Hafez al-Assad, have done for four decades.
"In order to survive, Assad and his Alawite generals will struggle to turn Syria into Lebanon - a fractured nation, where no one community can rule," said University of Oklahoma's Joshua Landis on his blog "Syria Comment".
Landis said Assad's "Lebanon option" would be to "turn Syria into a swamp and create chaos out of (its) sects and factions... Already the Syrian army has largely been transformed into an Alawite militia."
Opposition figures say a descent into violence and chaos will be inevitable if the outside world does nothing to stop it.
"My message to the international community is that the longer you ignore us the faster you are creating extremists in Syria," said Sheikh Tawfiq, commander of the Nuraldin Zinky brigade from Qobtan al-Jebel near Aleppo.
Syria is primed to be another failed state where lawlessness will encourage terrorists to set up shop and allow them to plan their attacks unencumbered. There are already indications that Syrians are joining the ranks of al-Qaeda and other extremist groups, which does not bode well for a post-Assad Syria.
The sectarian violence deliberately unleashed by President Assad who believed it would make it easier to put down the rebellion against him is going to make it impossible to govern Syria, whichever side comes out on top. And neighboring countries with their own problems with religious minorities could also suffer from the violence let loose in Syria in the aftermath of civil war.
Can the contagion be contained? Not likely.