The European Union has imposed an arms embargo and sanctioned 14 officials, leaving Assad out for the time being in the hopes the threat will change his behavior. The UN Human Rights Council approved a U.S.-sponsored resolution condemning the Syrian government and will investigate the brutal suppression, potentially paving the way for indictments. The UN also tried to deploy a humanitarian team to Dara’a that was denied access by the regime on May 10, and the UN Development Program has suspended operations in Syria.
At the same time, the International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed that the site destroyed in September 2007 — in an operation everyone attributes to Israel — was indeed a secret nuclear reactor. Syria is still refusing to grant access to other sites suspected of being part of a covert nuclear weapons program. The IAEA’s report is due next month, adding another layer of pressure on the Assad regime. And all of this is happening as the UN Special Tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri has prepared indictments for Hezbollah officials and quite possibly Syrian officials.
The pieces are falling together for tough international action against the Assad regime at precisely the time it is most vulnerable.
It is imperative that the West move fast, as the Interior Ministry has given protesters until May 15 to turn themselves in.
Senator Joe Lieberman has offered multiple good suggestions on how the U.S. can support regime change in Syria. There should be more sanctions on Syrian officials, including Assad himself, and those overseeing the violence should be publicly warned that they face prosecution through the International Criminal Court. An international coalition should deliver humanitarian aid to the cities under siege and equipment to help restore severed communications from the information blockade.
Congress should immediately propose a bill similar to one just introduced designed to support the Iranian opposition. It forbids any company from selling equipment that can be used for repression, from batons to internet filtering software, and threatens them with sanctions. Additional measures can also be taken, including pushing for sanctions for Syria’s lack of cooperation with the IAEA, and pressing the UN Special Tribunal to release its indictments. American and European officials should meet with Syrian dissidents that are secular liberals and calling for their release, especially those from the Allawite minority that the Assad regime draws its ranks from.
If Mubarak and Gaddafi deserved to fall, then Assad — who has the blood of American soldiers on his hands and is a major support of terrorism — certainly does as well.
Update: Read Syria shells residential neighborhoods; UN, Obama, silent at the Tatler.