Assad to world community: Try and stop me
The announcement yesterday by the US, the EU, and the UN calling on President Assad of Syria to step down had as much impact as you might expect on the Syrian dictator.
Thousands of Syrians took to the streets on Friday to call for the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad, keeping up the pressure in the five-month uprising a day after an alliance led by the United States toughened sanctions against his government and publicly called on him for the first time to step down. At least 18 people were reported killed, including some soldiers who disobeyed orders to shoot at protesters.
The deadly repression, in the face of rising international condemnation of Mr. Assad, suggested his own stubbornness was hardening.
Syrians have been demonstrating on Fridays after noon prayers since the uprising began in March, and activists on the official Facebook page for the Syrian revolution were calling this week's demonstrations "Friday of the beginnings of victory."
Activists and residents reached in Syria reported gunfire in several areas across the country, despite Mr. Assad's assertion two days earlier that all military operations against the opposition had ended. They said that 15 demonstrators were killed in the southern Dara'a Province, where the first protests began five months ago after security forces arrested and tortured high school students caught scrawling antigovernment graffiti on walls.
That UN Human Rights Council report on the crackdown makes for some tough reading. Soldiers going through hospitals and killing the wounded; snipers firing at kids; tanks leveling houses - truly awful atrocities.
But will Assad end up in the dock at the Hague? The Syrian dictator is nowhere near losing his hold on power. The uprising will no doubt continue for months with the body count rising every week until somebody, somewhere does something about it.
Just about the time that NATO is pulling out of a Gaddafi-less Libya, they might just adjust their target folders and take care of Assad. And if they thought Gaddafi was tough to bring down, Assad will hang on even longer. The ICC has him dead to rights and he may very well die before giving in.