After months of civil war in Syria, it is increasingly clear that President Bashar al-Assad’s days in power are numbered.

The Syrian endgame is unlikely to be a clean break with decades of tyranny. An uprising inspired by the Arab Spring could devolve into months or years of sectarian strife.

The U.S. and its allies can have a positive influence on what comes next in Syria through firm diplomacy and a readiness to block outside military influences. Military intervention should not be the first choice, but such involvement, most likely in the form of a no-fly zone, should be considered if needed to counter the influence of Iran or its terrorist proxies.

Syria boasts an ancient, rich and proud civilization, but the modern Syrian state is an artificial one that emerged from the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. It is a patchwork of peoples divided by ethnicity and religion, with the Alawite Shia Muslim minority bitterly opposed by a largely Sunni Muslim opposition, with Christian, Turkish and Kurdish minorities.

Resolving Syria’s future will require reconciling all these groups. That will require the cooperation of the U.S., the U.N., and other major players. The world cannot impose a specific form of government on Syria, but the region’s stability requires that the Assad regime end and be held accountable for its crimes. Only then can the peoples of Syria embrace a peaceful political solution of their choosing.

— The Telegram & Gazette of

Worcester (Mass.)