The BBC's Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, tweets that what is happening in Syria is "not a war but in places beginning to look like one".

What has been quite a specialised interest among journalists who report on world affairs or work in the BBC's global media is suddenly much higher up the agenda for all journalists.

Malik Al-Abdeh, chief editor of the Syrian opposition station Barada TV, considers the most important factor to be the depth of resentment and sense of injustice felt by the majority Sunni population in the face of institutionalised discrimination by the Alawite elite. He says the vast majority of protestors are not politically aligned: they are footballers, cab drivers, market traders who are rebelling against repression.

Professor Fawaz Gerges, director of the Middle East Centre at the LSE, says Syria is a much more divided society than the prevailing impression in the West would have us believe. Syrian society is splintered along ideological, sectarian and class lines, and these divisions have become deeper and wider in the past ten months.

Jonathan Marcus, defence and diplomatic correspondent for the BBC World Service, looks at how the countries surrounding Syria are involved. What happens in Syria directly affects Lebanon and vice versa. The interests of Iran, Algeria and Sudan are involved on the one hand, and those of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states on the other, with the US, the UN and Russia in the background.

The panel at this event included BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins.

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