By Elizabeth Kennedy and Suzan Fraser
Beirut— The Associated Press from Globe and Mail, August 9, 2011
Mr. Assad's defiant stance is, in many ways, a product of the country's history as a pariah nation.
Syria has been under U.S. sanctions since former President George W. Bush was in power, citing Syria's support for terrorism, its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and other activities including efforts to undermine U.S. operations in Iraq. Now the country is under new sanctions linked to the crackdown.
Iran's economic and political support has enabled Syria to survive the earlier sanctions and international isolation. And the help appears to be continuing: The White House has accused Iran's hard-line regime of aiding Syria in the crackdown.
Syria had been emerging from international isolation before the uprising broke out, and its burgeoning economic and political ties to Turkey were helping open up the country. But Turkey, NATO's biggest Muslim member, has not been able to persuade the regime to end the crackdown.
Turkey, which shares a 877-kilometre border with Syria, also has taken in thousands of Syrian refugees, straining the relationship. As of Tuesday, there were 7,258 Syrians living in Turkish refugee camps.
India's UN Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri said his country's representative is scheduled to arrive in Damascus on Tuesday and will join representatives from Brazil and South Africa for a meeting with Syria's foreign minister to appeal for an end to the crackdown and to promote democratic reforms.
Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain and Kuwait in the Gulf, recalled their ambassadors this week.
Is the Syrian president's intransigence linked to the Iranian intransigence over the acquisition of nuclear weapons? It seems hardly coincidental that the two countries are defying all petitions from outside for reform.
Today, the U.S. Security Council will meet to discuss the deteriorating situation in Syria. Amnesty International is calling for an arms embargo, yet even that, in the face of the pressure of withdrawn ambassadors, formal confrontations with the Turkish foreign minister and repeated requests from various countries, including the U.S., is unlikely to move this dangerous and tyrannical regime.
While hundreds of civilians have been killed at the hands of the regime in Syria, the world watches in dismay and in impotence as the drama unfolds.
From the outside, one does not know whether to be more focused on the violence of the Syrian regime or the impotence of the global community to do anything to stop the Syrian president. On the other hand, the world cannot withstand another Libya where NATO continues to drop bombs in an attempt to break the regime of the Libyan dictator. Innocents are dying in that country as well.
Although it may seem too cursory and glib to ask, one wonders if the increase in the number of theatres of military action has ennobled some dangerous leaders because they know that there is nothing the global community can or will do to force people like Assad to stop killing what he continues to call "terrorists".
The U.S. and the West generally must examine the impact of the wars on both Iraq and Afghanistan on other leaders in other countries and ask the tough questions about the cover provided by their "wars against terrorists and terrorism" for dictators like Assad. It would seem to the untrained eye that there has to be some direct correlation leaving countries like the U.S. without bargaining room or leverage.