Slaughter in Syria

Bashir Asad has decided, like Qaddafi, that he can win against Syrian forces for democratic reform.  According to Juan Cole at Informed Comment, Russian and China are running interference for the Asad regime in the UN:

The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday issued a “presidential statement,” one step below a resolution, chiding the Syrian government for its violent repression of protests (but also condemning violence by the protesters, which is a little like complaining that Jack the Ripper’s victims tried to scratch him with their fingernails). The statement was hailed as a turning point by French foreign minister Alain Juppe, and defended as an important step forward by US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice.

Diplomacy is the art of the possible, and one understands Juppe’s and Rice’s emphasis on the achievement here. But the statement contained no sanctions. So it was toothless. Russia and China are running interference for the Baath regime of Bashar al-Asad, and there is no prospect of them allowing UNSC sanctions on Damascus.

A month ago, Syrian troops withdrew from Hama, a center of rebellion and site where 10,000 dissident Syrians perished at the hands of Bashir Asad’s father’s regime in 1981.  At the time, many dissidents saw it as a temporary retreat before a new, major offensive.  That offensive came last weekend.  After shelling the city with non-stop motar attacks, Syrian troops moved in to lock it down.  Most news reports put the deaths in the last several days at over 200, yet no independent journalists have been allowed into Syria.  So ex-patriot Syrians fear that another massacre, in the fashion of 1981′s, may be in progress.

Russia explained its vote for a Presidential Statement vs. a resolution paving the way to sanctions as follows:

“It is no secret that our Western colleagues believe that Damascus and the Syrian government are to blame for everything and the best the Security Council can do is to put maximum pressure on Syrian authorities or even intimidate them with further actions on the part of the Security Council. There are a number of other members of the Security Council, Russia among them, who see the situation as more complicated. This analysis of the situation makes us believe that that task of the Security Council is to maximally encourage all sides in Syria to hold a dialogue that would allow the country to find a way out of the current crisis,”

However, Cole points out significant dissention within Russia.  One of the most elegant statements of the thousands given on the subject was made by the Russian special envoy to African for President Medvedev, Michail Margelov:

Tank attacks against one’s compatriots and coreligionists, unacceptable at any time, look especially defiant during the Holy Month of Muslim fasting, Ramadan. In fact, the Syrian government preferred a war with its civil population to reforms long overdue. This is an obvious manifestation of the weakness of the regime.With his massacres Syrian President Bashar al-Asad extremely complicated a transition to a political settlement of the situation as he caused justified bitterness against the regime and himself both within the country and beyond its borders.

The US and European Union are both applying sanctions to Syria.

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