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    Turning off the tap for Syrian rebels

    By Mick Krever, CNN

    Increasing concerns about the long-term aims of certain Syrian opposition forces may now be leading the international community to “turn off the tap for the rebels.”

    That is according to NPR Foreign Correspondent Deborah Amos, who has just returned from five-weeks of reporting in and out of Northern Syria.

    “I think what is happening is there is some sort of arrangement so that [the rebels] don’t exactly win the war, but they push the regime enough to make them talk,” she told CNN’s Fionnuala Sweeney.

    The West is concerned about rebel groups like al-Nusra, which the U.S. branded a terrorist organization last month. But most analysts say that al-Nusra is among the best fighting forces trying to overthrow the regime.

    U.N.: Syria death toll jumps

    The prevailing notion among many Syrians is that they would “sleep with the devil to get rid of Bashar al-Assad,” Amos said.

    There are signs that the Syrian regime may be open to some sort of settlement.

    In an interview with a Lebanese newspaper last month, Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa called for a “historic settlement” of the civil war and a unity government.

    “There is some movement in the regime,” Amos said. “Is it enough to get a deal? Not very clear.”

    What is clear is that neither side of the brutal civil war is making much headway.

    “The regime strategy all along has been to test the international community,” Amos said. “Is it okay ten a day? Is it okay to kill a hundred a day?”

    The United Nations now estimates that at least 60,000 people have died in the conflict.

    To many Syrians, Amos said, there is disbelief about the international community’s inaction. Why, they ask, is it verboten for the government to use chemical weapons but okay for it to kill 100 people waiting in line for bread, as happened just over a week ago?

    “There are no rules at all.” Amos said. “At least in Iraq, we knew where to be. I now am looking at towns being bombed in places I was two weeks ago, which I thought was safe on the day that I crossed that border. I often realize that there are no safe places in Syria.”

    No happy new year for Syria refugees

    CNN’s Juliet Fuisz produced this piece for television.

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