Syrian Ceasefire Founders as Massacres Continue
Days after the massacre of more than 100 people in Houla, many of them women and children, U.N. monitors in Syria reported continued violence. The bodies of 13 men were found bound and shot near the eastern city of Dair al-Zour. While U.N. envoy Kofi Annan begged “everyone with a gun” to respect the failed ceasefire, U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon warned that ongoing violence “could plunge Syria into a catastrophic civil war.” Free Syria Army (FSA) Colonel Qassim Saadeddine declared that if the regime failed to observe the ceasefire by Friday, the FSA would consider itself “no longer bound” by the plan. However, FSA head General Riyad Asaad later contradicted the declaration, saying that no ultimatum had been issued, and demanded that Annan declare the peace plan a failure.
After U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) condemned the Obama administration for failing to “take the lead in expelling Syrian regime officials” and called for further action against Damascus, the Treasury Department announced that it would be sanctioning the Syria International Islamic Bank. United States ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, suggested that with little hope left for a political settlement, the conflict was likely to develop into a regional sectarian war. Although a western military intervention remains unpopular in the administration, Rice said that if atrocities continued, “there should be consequences.” Andrew J. Tabler outlined five steps the United States should take to “cut off Assad’s lifelines,” ranging from providing intelligence to the opposition to establishing buffer zones and conducting surgical airstrikes. Randa Slim however, argued that any military aid would only serve to “prolong” the fight. Additionally, Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security adviser, said the crisis “is not as horrible or as dramatic as it is portrayed” and Frida Ghitis explained that the Syrian regime was “killing children” in order to “restore a balance of fear” and “intimidate the opposition.”
Finally, David Pollock reported in The Wall Street Journal on a confidential survey of the Syrian opposition conducted by Pechter Polls. Despite fear in the West of the Muslim Brotherhood’s growing influence in the country, over half of Syrians polled held a negative view of the Brotherhood. And though many respondents supported religious values in public life, only a small fraction were in favor of Sharia, clerical influence in government, or Islamic education.