For the approximately 23,000,000 people of Syria 2012 was a year of great tragedy.
More than 40,000 people - civilians, rebel fighters, and Syrian government forces - may have been killed and probably at least three or four times that number were wounded in 2012.
About half a million people are reported to have fled from the fighting and the hardships which accompany it to neighboring countries in 2012.
Another 10% of the population - about 2,300,000 people - are reported to be 'internally displaced' and/or to be suffering from severe food insecurity now.
Even for those whose lives remained relatively normal in 2012 they had to live with the knowledge that their lives could be abruptly turned upside down at any time. One example of which is Ras al-Ayn, a farming town of about 50,000 people on the Turkish-Syrian border in northeastern Syria, which had been quiet and peaceful and under the nominal control of the Syrian government until rebel forces, who were not from the area, attacked it about two months ago. Much of the town remains deserted today and clashes regularly erupt there between the Arab rebel forces who occupy much of the town and local inhabitants who are predominately Kurds. There are many many more instances of such atrocities which were commited by both Syrian government forces and rebel forces in 2012.
I think that there are seven different ways in which events might develop in Syria this year.
Spreading Unrest, Death, and Destruction
Fighting escalates between rebel and Syrian government forces, between rebel and Kurdish forces, and possibly even between different rebel groups, as the hardships which the people of Syria suffer also increase.
The unrest then spreads to Lebanon where sectarian battles break out, and to Jordan where the monarchy is put in danger of being overthrown, and to Iraq where the fragile Sunni, Shia and Kurdish balance begins to unravel, and to Turkey where terrorist attacks by various groups inspired by the fighting in Syria and armed with weapons smuggled from Syria increase.
International military intervention to restore order to the region becomes more and more likely as non-military international efforts to prevent this widening downward spiral fail.
A Negotiated Resolution
International efforts result in a cease-fire which leaves the current government structure in Syria temporarily in place, either with President al-Assad remaining in office or with another official taking his place. This would be followed by an internationally monitored referendum and election process in which the people of Syria decide on the form of a future government and elect those they want to govern them.
The Status Quo Continues
The fighting, as well as the divisions between opposition groups and rebel forces, along with the supply of money and weapons from external actors continue at a level similar to that of 2012, as do the resulting hardships suffered by the people of Syria.
A Quieter Stalemate
As the yearning for a more stable normal life grows among the people of Syria and as 'donor fatigue', donor dissatisfaction, and efforts to limit the inflow of weapons increase, the fighting settles into a quieter but relatively stable stalemate where neither Syrian government forces nor the divided rebel forces have the resources to defeat those they are fighting against. Syria becomes a patchwork of areas where the government retains control of certain areas, where the various rebel groups exert control over a number of small areas, and where Kurdish groups exert control over Kurdish-inhabited areas along the Turkish-Syrian border.
A Government Victory
Rebel forces collapse under the weight of their divisions and a growing dissatisfaction of the people of Syria with the rebel forces and with the hardships they have had to endure. Syrian government forces then reassert their control, although very tenuous in some areas, over most of Syria, and a much less intense guerrilla war continues.
A Victory by United Opposition Groups and Rebel Forces
Opposition groups and rebel forces are able to overcome their multiple major and minor differences and to unite and form a viable political entity and command structure which are able to both win the hearts and full support of the people of Syria and to fight strategically and cooperatively under a central command.
A Victory by Divided Opposition Groups and Rebel Forces
The Syrian Government collapses even though opposition groups and rebel forces remain divided and a period of vicious sectarian unrest and fighting between the various rebel groups ensues. Following this an individual or group seizes power by force, or the international community successfully convinces opposition groups and rebel forces to work together in the establishment of a new government, or the international community occupies Syria to restore order.
At this time I believe that the fourth - A Quieter Stalemate - is the mostly likely.