(7) Syrian Sunni Islamism. It's the Syrian opposition's "single strongest force." Its members include the Muslim Brotherhood. Its Syrian branch was created in 1944. It lacks a significant internal organized base.
In March 2012, it issued a political declaration. It announced support for religious equality. It said "every citizen has the right to reach the highest of positions."
MB factions throughout the region united in supporting Syria's opposition.
Since the 1990s, Syrian Salafism made substantial inroads. It's a Sunni Islamic ultra-orthodox school. It's connected with Saudi Wahhabi extremists. It's militant, strict and intolerant. Salafists also tend to be loosely organized.
Salafi-Jihadi elements consider themselves at war with secular Islam and Western governments. They replicate other like-minded groups.
(8) The Kurdish opposition. They comprise up to 10% of Syria's population. They've long been marginalized and play a minor role. Its opposition largely lacks effectiveness. It's comprised of about 15 competing parties.
Throughout 2011, Kurdish areas remained largely calm and orderly. In October 2011, its parties created the Kurdish National Council (KNC). Its members remained free to ally with other groups as they saw fit. They oppose Assad, but want democratic change.
(9) Independent dissidents. They include around 30 individuals.
A Brief Snapshot of Syria
Post-WW I, Syria became a French colony. It remained so until April 1946. Eight military coups followed. In 1970, Hafez al-Assad gained control. Until his death, he led Syria's Ba'ath Party. In July 2000, his son, Bashar, became Syria's president. He's a London-trained ophthalmologist turned politician.
The nation's agricultural sector generates around 25% of its national income. Wheat and cotton are principle crops. Oil is also produced and exported. In 2010, GDP growth was 3.2%. Per capita income was $4,800.
Russia and Syria have longstanding economic and strategic ties. Russian expertise and technology helped build Syrian infrastructure.
It's also responsible for dozens of industrial facilities. It includes about one-third of its electrical power capacity, another third of its oil-related operations, and help building the Euphrates dam.
Maritime interests are important. Linking Latakia, Syria with Novorossiysk, Russia on the Black Sea facilitates cargo shipments. Gazprom has oil and gas development operations.
Both countries have nuclear energy ties. They also cooperate on other commercial, scientific, military, and environmental issues.
Syria is secular. Its population numbers around 22.5 million. About 90% are Muslims. Most others are Christians. Significant investment goes for education. It's prioritized. It's largely free. Most schools are state-run. Private college charge modest fees.