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Time for More Pressure on Syria

Author: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
May 29, 2012
National Review


"International Pressure On Syria Grows After Killings," a New York Times headline reads today. The killings in question are the massacres perpetrated this weekend by the Assad regime's soldiers and the rabble called the "shabiha," who together murdered more than a hundred villagers in the town of Houla — many of them executed in cold blood, and many of them women and children. These are the latest of the more than 12,000 civilians the regime has killed in the last 15 months.

But what is the "pressure" to which the Times referred? First is the return to Syria of Kofi Annan, whose "peace plan" has provided a useful façade behind which Assad could continue killing and various governments, including our own, could hide while wringing their hands. Annan is back, but what can he do? How many legions has a former secretary general? Does anyone believe that Kofi Annan scares Bashar Assad?

Second is the coordinated expulsion today of Syrian diplomats by many of those same governments, again including ours. This is symbolic of our disgust with the weekend's killings, officials around the world have said. And that is precisely correct: The expulsions are symbolic. They do not hurt Assad nor do they help the Syrian people bring his bloody regime to an end any more than visits by Kofi Annan do. In February Secretary Clinton said about the killings in Syria that "world opinion is not going to stand idly by." Three months later, it is, and so is she.

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