Syria's Bloody Rebellion Hits One Year Anniversary

Waiting for Defections from Assad Regime

As the death toll mounts, all eyes are on the country's top leadership, straining to detect any cracks in the ranks dominated by Assad's fellow Alawites, a sect of Shia Islam. If one or several were to defect, many believe, it could spell the end of the regime.

"We're waiting for the cascade," says Landis. "There's still the hope a tipping point is going to come. But that hasn't happened and we can't count on it. I don't think it will happen."

Meanwhile, the FSA -- comprised almost entirely of Sunni Muslims -- is getting bigger by the day. The Pentagon says they've doubled the use of improvised explosive devices in the past few months, which could allow them to eventually seal off parts of the country like their fellow rebels did in eastern Libya against Moammar Gadhafi.

International economic sanctions continue to hit hard, with the Syrian pound dropping precipitously against the dollar in the past few months. In the capital Damascus, residents say the electricity goes off every day for six hours, food prices have double, and there are gas shortages and long lines.

"It feels like this will never end," a Damascus resident e-mailed ABC News. "Now there are two armed sides with lots of blood and the regime will not give up. The only way is through negotiations which have failed to even start."

A full-blown armed insurgency just shy of a civil war has taken the place of last spring's peaceful protests. And increasingly, the conflict is being framed in a Sunni versus Shiite lens similar to Iraq's that has already had knock-on effects felt in Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.

"I don't think we are yet in a civil war," says Damascus-based opposition activist Louay Hussein. "But we might be heading toward a civil war because some of arms and the gunmen have no political platform."

Hussein believes that at the end of the day, dialogue between Assad and the opposition will prevail, hoping that former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan will succeed in his diplomatic mission.

But how and when the crisis will reach that stage is anyone's guess.

"These battles go on for decades," says Landis. "They don't happen in a year and [the regime's] not going to give up."

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