Iran's relationship with Syria gives it clout with a broad range of players. If Syria's regime collapses, so too could Iran's regional influence.
One indication of Syria's confidence is that it has not yet attempted to wreak havoc regionally – a tactic it has employed in the past when feeling threatened.
Bashar al-Assad and his father, Hafez al-Assad, kept Syria stable for 40 years through Machiavellian guile and ruthlessness, while sowing havoc elsewhere in the region.
How have authoritarian regimes remained in control so long in the Middle East? In Syria's case, a critical factor is the concentration of power in a single family, political party, and religious sect.
At least 49 people were killed today when Syrian security forces used live ammunition to disperse the largest antiregime demonstrations yet.
Can Syria make a transition to democracy without facing the deadly battles now seen in Libya, or the repression in Bahrain? Yes, if enough leaders within Syria show vision and restraint, and if they are open to some outside mediation from South Africa, Turkey, and the US.
Many thought that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was at heart a reformer. But his response to unprecedented protests and violence suggest otherwise.
Three weeks of protests in Syria have revealed the violent hand of the Assad regime, yet the US is not responding to this crisis in the same way it did in Libya.
Assad supporters rallied in Syria's capital today ahead of a Wednesday speech in which the embattled president is expected to outline new reforms.