No clear successor to Assad's "coup-proof" rule in Syria
That is due in no small part, the officials and experts on Syria said, to President Bashar al-Assad's determination to "coup proof" his rule to ensure no challenge emerged from within.
With the Assad family facing the greatest challenge to its 41-year rule, Syrian security forces killing thousands of protesters and bystanders, and U.S. officials predicting the government will eventually fall, the question of who rules Syria has taken on added urgency.
But there is, in short, no heir apparent. And it is unclear if one will emerge anytime soon.
"The ruling establishment there is so entrenched and it is so self-interested, even if, and this is purely speculative, even if they overthrew Assad, it's not clear that we would like his successor much more," said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There is no heir apparent."
Similarly, among the rebels, "there is no opposition figure who has come out and become the face of Syrian resistance," the official said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday tried to exacerbate any divisions within Syria's elite, especially its security forces. "Their refusal to continue this slaughter will make them heroes in the eyes of not only Syrians but people of conscience everywhere," Clinton said.