Bashar Assad ushered in Ramadan this weekend by killing at least 136 unarmed civilian demonstrators, including nearly 100 in the city of Hama, the place where nearly 30 years earlier his father massacred tens of thousands of his fellow Syrians. Tanks and machine-gunners also targeted mosque minarets in the Sunni-majority city; Assad and his ruling circle are Alouite Shi’ites.
President Obama issued his strongest condemnation so far of the Syrian dictator, saying Sunday’s "horrifying" slaughter shows Assad "is completely incapable and unwilling to respond to the legitimate grievances of the Syrian people."
European leaders echoed the President’s harsh words, and Italy and Germany have called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council.
But Arab leaders are too quiet, perhaps because that merry band of corrupt autocrats can too easily identify with Assad and fear their people might also demand freedom. They turned on Libya’s Muammar Qadaffi but he’d already turned on them, even reportedly instigating some assassination attempts on some of his brethren, so it was not a tough call.
It is good news that the Obama administration has finally abandoned all illusions that Assad, son of an even more evil monster than himself, might be the reformer he promised. It is not for the United States to take military action but it is an opportunity for the Arab League to show some courage.
President Obama said Assad’s "use of torture, corruption and terror puts him on the wrong side of history and his people." He promised to "increase our pressure on the Syrian regime."
Congress, which has long been out ahead of the administration in that regard, should be encouraged to keep up the pressure.
I had been critical of the administration’s decision to return the U.S. ambassador to Damascus without getting any substantive quid pro quo from Assad. It seemed like a matter of giving something for nothing.
I was wrong.
What changed my mind was Ambassador Robert Ford’s trip to Hama last month, with his French counterpart, where he not only demonstrated American support for the protestors but also bore witness for all the world to Assad’s brutality. Blaming the four-and-a-half month old uprising on armed gangs, foreign saboteurs and Zionists, he has attempted to ban diplomatic and media access to hot spots. On his return to Damascus, Amb. Ford posted a note on his Facebook page calling on Assad to "stop beating and shooting peaceful demonstrators."
Apparently Assad didn’t appreciate the advice because he sent gangs of thugs thugs to violently attack the U.S. Embassy.
In a recent column in the Jerusalem Post and other papers, I wrote that Bashar Assad is his father’s son and the rotten apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The time has come to chop down that tree.
Many in Israel are not so sure.
Here’s some of what I wrote, and you can read the rest here
Many in Israel – including those who criticized Obama for being too quick to abandon Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak – are urging caution because of uncertainty over who or what will follow.
Assad may be terrible, they say, but better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
Here’s what we know about this devil: He has so little regard for the lives of his own people that he sends tanks, helicopter gunships and soldiers to massacre unarmed women and children, kills his own soldiers as an excuse to blame demonstrators, sends thousands into exile, and slaughters thousands more seeking to escape. And that’s just at home.
It’s a family tradition; his father did it for nearly 30 years before him.
He also gives safe haven, weapons and other support to assorted terror groups, notably Hamas and Hezbollah. Assad seeks to regain control of Lebanon, and has been blamed for ordering the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri and other critics of his regime.
He sent dozens of Palestinians to cross the border with Israel on the Golan Heights in a transparent ploy to divert attention from his bloody crackdown.
He is the loyal lynchpin in Tehran’s goal of regional domination, and like Iran, he wants to build his own nuclear arsenal, threatens to wage war against Israel (which he already does through his surrogates), and has a massive arsenal of missiles with chemical and biological warheads aimed at Israel’s population centers.
That’s the devil we know.
We may not know what will replace him, but we know that the longer Assad stays, the better for Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and their henchmen – and the worse it is for the United States, Israel, Lebanon and the Syrian people.