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From a distance, Syria 'feels' like Iraq in 2004

There's some hope for a faster end to the fighting – with British Prime Minister Cameron hinting at safe passage for Assad if he decides to quit the fight. But the outlook is grim.

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The AP reports there's an element of inter-Palestinian conflict in the fighting, with the PFLP-GC saying the fighting started after Palestinians fighting with the rebellion attacked civilians in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk.

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Staff writer

Dan Murphy is a staff writer for the Monitor's international desk, focused on the Middle East. Murphy, who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and more than a dozen other countries, writes and edits Backchannels. The focus? War and international relations, leaning toward things Middle East.

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But there are plenty of similarities, particularly the substantial presence of jihadis in Syria, much as they were in Iraq. These are very much the same sort of people who were fighting the US troops in Iraq (and running death squads against Shiites) during the war there. Aaron Zelin shares on Twitter this pre-martyrdom picture of Libyan Ahmad Bishasha, characteristic of Al Qaeda-style propaganda. Jahbat al-Nusra claims that Mr. Bishasha carried out a suicide attack on that group's behalf yesterday.

The international community is looking on with ineffectual alarm, particularly with an eye toward the chances of major sectarian reprisal killings if Assad is defeated and the victorious rebels end up having large numbers of the jihadis in their ranks. UN Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told the pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat that Syria may "turn into a new Somalia" dominated by warlords and militias in the wake of a government collapse. Mr. Brahimi says he wants a binding resolution from the UN Security Council on a Syrian transition to end the fighting, though he's well aware that Russia has vowed to exercise its veto against any such resolution.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron tells Al Arabiya that safe passage out of Syria with a promise of no war crimes prosecution "could be arranged." 

“Done. Anything, anything, to get that man out of the country and to have a safe transition in Syria,” he told the network. "Of course I would favor him facing the full force of international law and justice for what he’s done. I am certainly not offering him an exit plan to Britain, but if he wants to leave he could leave, that could be arranged."

For now, Assad remains defiant, and he's pounding both the rebels and civilians who oppose him with artillery, warplanes, and helicopter gunships.

How Syria will play out in the coming months is anyone's guess. When regimes collapse, they collapse fast. But until something changes, Syria looks more and more like Iraq on the verge of the worst horrors of its own civil war every day.

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