Politics, economics, demographics all come into play.
Residents suspect the involvement of widely resented security forces. But protests may not derail the relative peace of recent years.
If US president is too supportive of protests, he turns them into a 'Western plot,' say analysts.
Protesters reported beatings and shootings near the parliament Wednesday. Regime opponents vowed to persist with protests that have deepened a cultural divide between hard-liners and more moderate reformers.
Damascus sees the move as a concrete indication that Obama is serious about improving ties. The US hopes to use Syrian leverage against Iran and Hezbollah.
Sex scandal engulfing South Carolina's governor may keep Republicans from focusing on their real task: to define an alternative vision to Obama's.