"The economy is #Syria 's most pressing internal problem, and hopes for near-term improvement are dim. The US Embassy reports that the vast majority of Syrians are finding it increasingly difficult to afford basic necessities"
#Syria is the centerpiece of Moscow's influence in the Middle East. Moscow thus has a vested interest in major policy shifts or changes in Syrian leadership. In spite of his dependence on Soviet military aid, Assad has remained wary of excessive Soviet influence"
"Sunnis make up 60% of Syrian officer corp. We believe that a renewal of communal violence between Alawis and Sunnis could inspire Sunnis in the military to turn against the regime"
"Rivalries among Alawi clans & tribes exist; should a power struggle develop in the military or the Govt among Alawi elites, we believe factions based on clans or tribal loyalties could form"
"Although the Muslim Brotherhood's suppression drastically reduced armed dissidence, we judge significant potential still exists for another Sunni opposition movement"
Since Assad crushed the MB, deep-seated tensions remain--keeping alive the potential for minor incidents to grow into major flareups of communal violence. For example, disgruntlement over price hikes, altercations between Sunni citizens and security forces
"Excessive Govt force in quelling disturbances might be seen by Sunnis as evidence of Govt vendetta against all Sunnis, precipitating even larger protests by other Sunni groups. Sunni merchants & artisans probably would launch protests"
"Mistaking the new protests as a resurgence of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Govt would step up its use of force and launch violent attacks on a broad spectrum of Sunni community leaders as well as those engaged in protests"
Attacks on Sunni civilians might prompt large numbers of Sunni officers/conscripts to desert or to stage mutinies in support of dissidents, and #Iraq might supply them with sufficient weapons to launch a civil war"
"Many Sunnis resent the Soviets because they are closely identified with Alawi dominance and Sunnis would be especially hostile towards the Soviets if they had supported Alawis with military equipment and advisors in a civil war"
US interests would be best served by a Sunni regime controlled by business-oriented moderate. Although such Govt would give some support to Arab causes, this group's preoccupation with Eco development would give Sunnis incentive to avoid war with #Israel
Washington's gains would be mitigated. however, if Sunni fundamentalists assumed power. Should they succeed, they would likely deepen hostilities with #Israel and provide support and sanctuary to terrorist groups