Publisher: International Herald Tribune
Story date: 20/11/2011
The brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters by President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has left more than 3,500 people dead. International pressure for his removal is finally building — but not fast enough.
On Monday, King Abdullah of Jordan became the first Arab leader to urge Mr. Assad to relinquish power. On Tuesday, a senior Saudi prince, Turki al-Faisal, called Mr. Assad's exit ''inevitable.'' The same day, Turkey announced that plans for a Turkish oil company to explore for new deposits in Syria had been canceled. The government, which is sheltering some leaders of the Syrian opposition as well as thousands of Syrian refugees, also warned that Turkish power lines to Syria might be cut.
The Arab League also appeared ready, finally, to take a stand. On Saturday, it gave Damascus until Wednesday to end the violence or have its membership suspended. The killing has worsened. Instead of making good on its threat, on Wednesday, the league gave Mr. Assad a three-day reprieve, offering to send monitors to Syria to determine if the government was abiding by a league-brokered peace plan to end the crackdown.
He isn't. The league needs to do what it said, suspend Syria and then impose muscular penalties for Mr. Assad's brutality.
We know the league is dominated by autocrats. But they should at least understand self-interest. There are growing fears of civil war in Syria, and prolonged instability there will threaten the entire region. On Wednesday, army defectors allied with the Syrian opposition attacked a military intelligence facility near Damascus in a new escalation of the conflict.
The United States and the European Union have imposed their own tough penalties. But Russia and China have blocked the United Nations Security Council from imposing sanctions or even issuing a full-throated condemnation of Mr. Assad's bloody reign.
Moscow and Beijing need to stop their enabling and agree to tough sanctions on Mr. Assad and his cronies in the military and business community.
The Council should refer Mr. Assad and his henchmen to the International Criminal Court for prosecution for crimes against humanity.
Mr. Assad has left no doubt that he is willing to destroy his country to maintain his hold on power. His neighbors and all civilized countries need to stand with the Syrian people, before it's too late.
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