January 14th, 2013
02:59 AM ET

Mission impossible? Creating the 'Syria of the future' right now

By Jill Dougherty

On Syria, Russia and the United States agree on one thing: The only way the civil war can be solved is politically with a transitional government.

But there's the rub: the U.S. insists president Bashar al-Assad can't be part of that government; Russia says it's up to the Syrians to decide, but the opposition won't deal with any government that includes al-Assad.

No matter how many meetings Moscow and Washington have, they get hung up on this crucial point. But now U.S.  diplomats say they're not waiting. They're trying to foster creation of a transitional government on the ground, even before al-Assad might go. As State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland puts it: "Creating de facto, particularly in liberated areas, the Syria of the future that the Syrian people want."

Nuland describes it as "both a top-down process and a bottom-up process happening at the same time in Syria."

Bottom-up, local coordinating councils are taking over and providing services to residents in towns and villages liberated from government control.