Syria's Bloody Rebellion Hits One Year Anniversary

PHOTO: Aida cries as she recovers from severe injuries after the Syrian Army shelled her house in Idlib, north Syria.

One year ago, crowds gathered in Syria's southern city of Daraa to protest the arrest and alleged torture of children who had written on a school wall, "the people want the downfall of the regime."

It is unclear whether the children were simply repeating the Arab Spring's most famous chant, or whether they genuinely hoped to topple the four decade-long Assad family regime as others had seen done in Tunisia and Egypt.

The Daraa protests sparked the uprising that has lasted longer than any other in the Arab Spring, claiming more than 8,000 lives and displacing 230,000 people, according to the United Nations.

A year on, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad maintains the upper hand and there's little sign so far that it is losing grip. Analysts say that could change quickly with defections from the top echelons of the key ministries in the military and security apparatus that have stayed loyal to the regime. However, as the conflict drags on, Assad is weakened and support for the opposition -- despite its disunity -- grows.

Assad is "smashing the opposition," said Syria analyst Joshua Landis at the University of Oklahoma, before adding that recent gains may just be "a pyrrhic victory."

"[Assad is] going to have a temporary victory here as he puts the fear of god in people and looks like a winner," Landis said. "But it's going to mobilize the hatred. Syria's boiling."

The growing number of soldiers defecting to the woefully ill-equipped Free Syrian Army is still just a small fraction of the overall forces, and a vast majority of those defecting are conscripts. The FSA is believed to have at most 20,000 fighters -- mostly civilians -- against an Assad force that the U.S. believes is around 330,000.

At every turn, the FSA is forced to retreat when regime forces launch a crackdown, seen most recently in the restive cities of Homs and Idlib that have now been subdued. "How can AK-47s stop a tank?" is a question asked repeatedly by FSA fighters pleading for external support.

By all accounts, the political opposition is still a fractured mess, the Syrian National Council failing to pull together and present a unified front, as it has been urged to by its supporters in the international community.

"There is no council, it's an illusion," said Kamal al-Labwani, a prominent SNC member who quit this week.

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