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Velvet revolutions are desirable, but a revolution, by its nature, is an extreme solution to an extreme situation.Hundreds of extremists were released from regime prisons, and Assad exploited the negative consequences to his advantage, re-engaging with the international community with Russian and Iranian backing.The negligible support that moderate rebels received from the international community, often in the form of nonlethal aid such as communications equipment and night-vision goggles, at a time when Gulf donors were busy supplying cash and weapons to more extreme factions, proved another crucial factor in the ongoing marginalization of moderate elements from the scene, allowing for the effective hijacking of the revolution by extremists. A choice between the extremism represented by Assad and his loyalist sectarian militias and that championed by Islamist militias leaves little room for ideas and mutes the voices of reason. Political and intellectual maturity is sorely lacking, even as the challenges ahead grow more and more daunting. Wherever the activists go, they must either face pro-Assad or extreme Islamist militias.Oula Abdulhamid is executive director of SANAD Syria, an initiative of the Tharwa Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting the Syrian Revolution.
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