Editorial: Killing in Syria

Two days after Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a peaceful transfer of power in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad continued his killing spree.

Oil pipeline bombed in Homs, Syria

 

 

On Monday, government forces using tanks and machine guns shelled a makeshift medical clinic and residential areas in Homs, a major center of protests. Since Friday, an estimated 240 people have been killed, in perhaps the bloodiest episode in the 11-month-old uprising. Moscow and Beijing now have the blood of Syria’s valiant people on their hands as well.

Both argued that the resolution, endorsing an Arab League initiative, would expand the conflict. That is nonsense. The real explanation is that these two authoritarian governments fear any popular movement and, after the ouster of the Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, are determined to deny the West another perceived victory.

While the resolution failed, the support at the Council was strong: 13 nations — including India and South Africa, which had abstained on an earlier vote in October — voted in favor. It is a sign of Syria’s increasing isolation and the repugnance that all responsible governments should feel toward Mr. Assad’s murderous ways.

If Russia and China are determined to obstruct the Security Council, the United States is right to look for a way to press for new sanctions and greater isolation of Syria. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has proposed a “friends of democratic Syria” group to support the opposition and work for a democratic political transition.

Mr. Assad has made clear that there is no compromise or deal to be had. But he is not immune to pressure. The “friends” group should use all the diplomatic and economic levers they can muster to encourage his ouster. That includes strictly adopting and implementing sanctions on Syria like those imposed by the European Union, the United States and the Arab League.

Washington on Monday withdrew its ambassador from Damascus, and other countries should do the same. In time, the business and military elite will come to realize that sticking by the Assad government is a losing proposition. There is growing talk in Washington and elsewhere of arming the Free Syrian Army, a coalition of military defectors and opposition members. It is understandable that many Syrians want to fight back against the brutal regime, which is believed to have already killed as many as 6,000 people since pro-democracy protests began. But we fear that that will make things worse.

An all-out civil war would be even more damaging to civilians — Assad’s army has 200,000 troops — and increase the chances that the fight will spill over into the broader region or become a proxy war.

Russia unconscionably refuses to halt its arms sales to the Assad government. The United States and its allies should publicly expose every shipment. Russians are growing tired of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and frequent public reminders of his responsibility for the killings in Syria will only further tarnish his image.

On Tuesday, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, is supposed to visit Damascus. The message he should be carrying is clear: It is time for Mr. Assad to go. If Russia chooses, instead, to enable more killing, it will find itself increasingly isolated. The world is watching, finally.

Source: New York Times

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