Syrian troops on Monday routed government opponents in a neighborhood of Homs that had emerged in recent weeks as a center of armed resistance to the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad, dealing what appeared to be a serious setback to the protest movement and to an Arab League peace initiative designed to end the violence.Walter Russell Meade calls it best:
Homs residents and human rights groups said security forces stormed the Bab al-Amr neighborhood in the small hours of the morning, concluding a six-day assault in which dozens were killed and scores injured, many of them in tank bombardments.
Defected soldiers who had been defending the protest hot spot either fled to the surrounding countryside or were captured or killed, said residents and activists. Syrian troops combed through the neighborhood Monday detaining all the young men they encountered, and government supporters staged a noisy demonstration through the deserted streets.
The assault came as Assad’s government braced for the potential fallout from its failure to abide by the terms of an Arab League-sponsored peace initiative agreed to last Wednesday. Under the deal, Syria was to withdraw troops from cities, allow peaceful protests and release detainees.
Instead, the army launched an offensive in Homs, surrounding Bab al-Amr on the eve of the league’s announcement of the deal in Cairo and bombarding it with tank fire.
Assad continues to stake his future on the belief that the “international community” and the “duty to protect” are imaginary beasts. So far, there is nothing to show he is wrong.Many in the US foreign policy establishment, especially those toward the left side of the political divide, fail to understand, perhaps willfully, the brutal reality of the world.
The Libyan war was billed as a demonstration that the “duty to protect” had become the policy of governments in Britain, France and the US. This was always a hollow pretense, though many policymakers were delusional enough to believe it. Assad was too smart to be fooled; he understood that the West’s Libyan adventure made him more secure, not less so. The West has no appetite or energy to stop the bloodbath in Syria; the ‘duty to protect’ is a slogan, not a law.
We still live in a brutal world; at the moment, Assad is living by the law of the jungle, and it is working very well for him.