Forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad shelled districts of Homs on Monday reportedly killing another 50 people after an estimated 200 people were killed Friday, according to The Associated Press.
The deaths highlight the failure of U.N. security forces to act on the situation over the weekend. The Security Council had been considering a resolution calling for Assad to step down and for election preparations to begin.
Russia, followed by China, vetoed the resolution on Saturday, saying it would be meddlesome intervention by Western countries into a civil war. Russia has repeatedly said the intervention would be used as an excuse by the West to intervene militarily, as it did in Libya.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, told Interfax news agency that the current resolution “above all leaves the door open for intervention in Syrian [internal] affairs.” Russian officials have offered to mediate peace talks between the Assad government and the protesters.
Despite Russia’s accusations that it is Western intervention, it is the Arab League who has been the greatest advocate of the U.N. resolution drafted by Morocco, one of its member states. There is strong speculation that Russia’s real interest lies in protecting the Assad regime.
The Russians stand to lose a huge client of arms sales if the Assad regime topples.
A New York Times article cited Max-Security Solutions analysts, saying that the Assad regime purchases of Russian arms were worth $ 4 billion with Russia holding another $20 billion in investments in Syria.
Despite a strong desire to see Assad removed from power, President Barack Obama does not see military action into this country as a possibility. British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said the resolution could not have been used to authorize military action in Syria. Great Britain has withdrawn its ambassador from Damascus, while the United States has shut down its embassy and has withdrawn all staff from the country.
Bolstered by Russian and Chinese support it, appears Assad has stepped up the crackdown on his opposition. The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, however, has maintained that the attacks were carried out by terrorists.
Without a U.N. resolution it seems that there may not be an end in sight. Absent outside intervention there may not be any way to stop, Assad from simply killing off his opposition. Given Obama’s very vocal desire to see Assad removed from office, the question begs, how long will the administration allow the violence to go on before openly considering unilateral military action? The violence has been going on now for almost 11 months.
Obama told NBC’s Matt Lauer, “I think it is very important for us to try to resolve this without recourse to outside military intervention. And I think that’s possible.” However, the country’s leaders currently seem to be at a loss.
The opposition group, the Syrian National Council, is still protesting against Assad, and counting on international support.
In an AP article, Radwan Ziadeh, of the SNC, said the 13 Security Council countries who supported the resolution should form an international coalition, independent of the U.N. This may be the only recourse left to those who wish to see Assad removed from power.