Syrian lies, Syrian deaths
As Assad defies the world, the U.S. should ratchet up the pressurehttp://articles.
April 10, 2012
This just in: Syrian President Bashar Assad is not a man of his word.
We'll give you a moment to absorb the surprise of that revelation about a dictator whose security units have killed some 9,000 civilians because they dared to call for democratic reforms.
Actually, you may not be surprised. Assad is the same ruler who, during a December interview with Barbara Walters of ABC News, denied that a lethal crackdown was under way. "We don't kill our people," he blithely assured her. "No government in the world kills its people, unless it's led by a crazy person."
But on Sunday, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Anann, who brokered a ceasefire between government and opposition forces, pronounced himself "shocked by recent reports of a surge in violence and atrocities in several towns and villages in Syria" despite "assurances given to me."
It's true. After agreeing to the deal, the regime didn't embrace the spirit of reconciliation. Instead, it carried out relentless attacks on rebel areas, killing armed insurgents as well as civilians.
It also announced a new demand: that rebels disarm themselves in exchange for the removal of government forces from cities and towns. That would leave the bloodied opposition even more vulnerable to what one activist called Assad's "torched-earth strategy."
Things got worse on Monday when Turkey accused Syrian soldiers of shooting refugees trying to escape into Turkey, as many of Assad's citizens have previously done. None of this augured well for the Tuesday deadline set in Anann's plan for the regime to pull back its forces, which was to be followed by a ceasefire. Turkey's deputy foreign minister declared the deadline "void."
It's bad news for anyone who expected a peaceful end to Assad's war on his own people. But that was never more than a faint hope among those acquainted with the regime's character.
When the Syrian government agreed to the plan last month, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, "We will judge Assad's sincerity and seriousness by what he does, not by what he says." The Washington Post noted that "many Syria observers argue that Assad is seeking to bog down Annan and his team of mediators in a fruitless diplomatic process that will provide him with political cover to continue his military campaign against the opposition." That skepticism turns out to have been justified.
It's not impossible that the Damascus regime will decide to pull back as it promised. But even if it does, there is little reason to expect Assad to agree to loosen his stranglehold on power by accepting genuine steps toward democracy. As long as he thinks he has the upper hand militarily, he has little reason to compromise.
So it's in the interest of the rest of the world to weaken his position by strengthening the opposition. The Obama administration has called for Assad's resignation and promised to boost aid to the opposition, including not only medical supplies but communications equipment.
The United States has also decided to provide "non-lethal" assistance, such as night-vision gear and intelligence information, to help the insurgents in their fight. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have promised to pay the salaries of troops in the opposition Free Syrian Army.
What's not clear is how long Russia and China will continue to stand by the Syrian ruler. Moscow and Beijing had supported the Annan plan — and ought to be embarrassed to see Assad shred it. The less amenable he is to outside mediation, the more likely he is to galvanize international cooperation against him.
He's been doing his best to provoke other governments to take steps to protect the opposition from wanton slaughter by a criminal regime. Having begun to respond, those governments should ratchet up the pressure. Two months ago we first urged the Obama administration to strengthen the rebels with arms and funding, and to accelerate the financial isolation of the Damascus thugocracy.
Because no matter what he nobly told Barbara Walters, Bashar Assad is killing his people.