A sectarian divide or an Alawite-led "palace coup" are two of the most likely ways he might be removed
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaks on Syrian state TV / Reuters
It is easy to say that with Qaddafi gone, the next vicious regime to fall is that of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished, but realists and pessimists have rightly asked "how exactly does that happen?"
That's a fair question, because the Assad regime has yet to crack and none of the previous models--Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya--can work the same way in Syria. In my view, there are two possibilities that head the list.
One possibility is that the army will split, largely on sectarian lines. The New York Times reports today as follows:
There were reports that dozens of soldiers, possibly encouraged by the rout in Libya of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, had deserted their positions in a village near Homs, the country's third-largest city, and also on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, to join the five-month-old popular uprising against Mr. Assad and his Baath Party. Activists said that since the uprising started in mid-March, most such desertions have taken place in the eastern tribal area of Deir al-Zour, bordering Iraq; in the northwestern province of Idlib; and in towns around Homs and Damascus....The Free Officers of Syria, a group of soldiers and officers who left the army last month in protest of the crackdown and say that they now represent defectors, published an online statement saying that "large" defections were reported in Harasta, another suburb of Damascus and that armed troops loyal to the government were chasing those defectors.
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There have been numerous other reports about defections in the Army (from Reuters, for example) but it is difficult to assess whether they have yet reached a significant size. If the demonstrations grow, I assume the numbers of defectors will grow as Sunni troops refuse to shoot peaceful and unarmed Sunni demonstrators.