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Violence escalates in Syria, leaving future uncertain

The violence in Syria is “spinning out of control,” U.S. Defense Sec.

The violence in Syria is “spinning out of control,” U.S. Defense Sec. Leon Panetta said Wednesday after a bomber killed three senior Syria military officials earlier, including the brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad.

While much of the international community, including the United States, is calling on Assad to step aside in order to quell the fighting with the now 16-month-old opposition, Chris Matthews asked NBC News’ Richard Engel what’s in store for the man once beloved in Western circles but now accused of orchestrating the killing of unarmed civilians.

Assad has run Syria for the last 12 years, and his father ruled with an iron fist for the 29 years prior.

“When pushed and cornered…this regime started behaving like Saddam Hussein’s regime in the worst days and there’s really no way to go back from there,” Engel said during Hardball Wednesday.

Rebels want the Assad-regime gone and fighting in the capital city of Damascus continues to escalate, according to reports.

“The opposition wants to kill him. They tried to kill him today,” Engel said.

Syria is believed to possess chemical weapons, including sarin nerve agent and mustard gas, and concern over use of those chemical agents—by either side—is now of concern, especially as a cease-fire looks unlikely, Engel noted.

Engel said, “I don’t see any kind of political solution,” and suggested the only place for Assad to escape to safely would be Russia or another option is "he goes down fighting,” which is seeming more likely.

A Reuters report said that by Thursday morning in Syria there was no sign of or statement from Assad yet as fighting in the capital continued.