Sadistic Syrian leader Bashar Assad must be ousted from power at the earliest possible date, to stop the blatant atrocities occurring in that nation. To do so, the international community must put vastly more pressure on Assad’s regime, both diplomatically and financially and finally, if and as needed, engage in physical intervention.
The latest atrocity by Assad’s forces last Friday took the lives of at least 108 people, including 49 children (many of whom were under 10 years of age), and 34 women in the area of Houla, a cluster of 15 Sunni villages 15 miles northwest of the central city of Homs. According to Neil MacFarquhar of the New York Times, villagers told the United Nations monitors that at least some of the killings had been committed by “shabiha,” or government thugs, at close range — those combatants tend to be Alawites (an offshoot of Shia Islam), the same minority sect that includes Assad.
Peter Wittig, Germany’s envoy to the United Nations, commented on the most recent assaults: “The evidence is clear — it is not murky. There is a clear (Assad) government footprint in those killings.” Wittig made the statement in the aftermath of a unanimous vote by the 15-member United Nations Security Council which condemned the Syrian regime to its role in the Houla massacre.
Kofi Annan, the former U.N. Secretary General, once again traveled to Damascus for another round of fruitless “negotiations” with Assad, whose regime has once again cynically blamed the massacre on “terrorist insurgents,” when the evidence is overwhelming that Assad’s own shabiha hit squads carried out the unspeakable atrocity.
Annan’s efforts have been essentially useless, as his U.N. and Arab League employers must now recognize. The most charitable description of Kofi Annan’s efforts is that he is well intentioned but naive, despite his long career in diplomacy. It is abundantly clear that Assad, as noted in the New York Times article, “is impervious” to Annan’s efforts, and has used the pretense of the talks to buy time to continue his indiscriminate murder of men, women and children.
By this point in the previous episodes of the “Arab Spring” uprisings against Middle East dictatorships, the autocratic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt were ousted, and Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi had been formally indicted as a war criminal by the International Criminal Court. In the latest U.N. Security Council vote, even Russia, the stalwart defender of its Syrian ally, voted in favor of the resolution of condemnation, which still fell short of demanding that Assad by removed forthwith from power.
At this stage in the Libyan conflict, when it became clear that Qaddafi would launch an all-out massacre in Benghazi to maintain his grip on power, the United States and its NATO allies banded together to set up “no fly” and “no drive” zones to prevent Qaddafi from carrying out his evil intentions. Within weeks Qaddafi was not only out of power, but was killed by one of the rebels against his 42-year dictatorship.
Up until now, the U.N. has demonstrated no will to effect the ouster of Assad. Pressure must be dramatically increased to bring about his removal at the earliest possible date to put an immediate stop to the carnage.
The U.S. and Turkey, with support from Saudi Arabia, are reportedly considering arming the anti-Assad rebels. Several Western nations, including Great Britain and United States, have sent Syria’s ambassadors and embassy staffs packing.
Much more is needed. Assad’s removal doesn’t guarantee the cessation of violence, but his continued leadership essentially guarantees continued civilian bloodshed.
Assad has been given too many opportunities to use the fig leaf of “peace plans” and “ongoing negotiations” to continue his murderous spree against his own people. A reported plan for Assad to be eased from power on a similar basis worked out to oust Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh is clearly no longer a sensible option.
Moreover, Assad is a longtime enabler of Iranian intentions in the region. While his forceful removal could not be justified in the absence of mass slaughter, his collaboration with Iran combined with his domestic murder program shows who he is — a venomous leader who will stop at nothing to retain and solidify his position of power. By demonstrating his true colors in his treatment of his own country’s men, women and children, Assad shows he has no place among the leaders of nations.
It is time for the Great Powers under the umbrella of NATO to issue a clear and unequivocal demand to Bashar Assad: Leave power immediately, and your life might be spared (though no promises on war trial prosecution; he must get what he deserves). The time for “talks” has elapsed. The time for decisive action is now.