While Syria's 40-year Assad regime has fought multiple conflicts with Israel, it has also been a stable neighbor – making Israelis uneasy about the prospects of Islamists gaining power next door.
Western diplomats say that some members of Syria's Assad regime are ready to reach out, but a dearth of visible leaders gives those advocating force the upper hand.
In the strike on Osama bin Laden, and in the Arab spring, some analysts see hope for the end of a chapter of global violent jihad – and the possibility of a larger swing toward democratic values.
'We have clearly passed the Osama bin Laden era, and we are firmly into the Bouazizi era,' said one columnist, referring to the Tunisian man whose self-immolation sparked revolts across the Mideast.
Accounts from refugees who fled to Lebanon from western Syria highlight the repressive tactics used by President Bashar al-Assad's regime as it struggles to stifle a pro-democracy uprising.
The UN Human Rights Council barely backed a watered-down condemnation of Syria for its attacks on civilian protesters. The pushback suggests some nations worry that the West overstepped its bounds in pressing for strong action against Libya – and want to avoid a repeat.
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.
But diplomats and human rights advocates are calling for Syria to be kept off the council when the UN General Assembly votes on new members next month.