Russia, China block action on Syria
As expected, President Assad's chief enablers, Russia and China, vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have approved an Arab League plan to ostensibly end the fighting, although no one believes anything of the sort - not even the Arabs.
The veto and the mounting violence underlined the dynamics shaping what is proving to be the Arab world's bloodiest revolt: diplomatic stalemate and failure as Syria plunges deeper into what many are already calling a civil war. Diplomats have lamented their lack of options in pressuring the Syrian government, and even some Syrian dissidents worry about what the growing confrontation will mean for a country reeling from bloodshed and hardship.
The veto is almost sure to embolden the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which brazenly carried out the assault on Homs on the day that the Security Council had planned to vote. It came, too, around the anniversary of its crackdown in 1982 on another Syrian city, Hama, by Mr. Assad's father, Hafez, in which at least 10,000 people were killed in one of the bloodiest episodes in modern Arab history.
"It's quite clear - this is a license to do more of the same and worse," said Peter Harling, an expert on Syria at the International Crisis Group. "The regime will take it for granted that it can escalate further. We're entering a new phase that will be far more violent still than what we've seen now."
The Security Council voted 13 to 2 in favor of a resolution backing an Arab League peace plan for Syria, but passage was blocked by Russia and China, which opposed what they saw as a potential violation of Syria's sovereignty. The support of those countries has proved crucial in bolstering the Syrian government's confidence, despite an isolation more pronounced than any time since the Assad family seized power more than four decades ago.
The Arab League "peace plan" is totally dependent on Assad accepting the impossible - stepping down in favor of his vice president who would form a "coalition government" that would guide Syria into democratic elections.
But Russia and China fear the endgame; some kind of military intervention by the west that would eliminate their friend and business partner Assad. Russia especially has few friends like Assad in the region and losing him would be a major blow to Russian designs in the Middle East.
Since Assad is not going to run out of bullets anytime soon, and the opposition shows no sign that it is losing its determination to shed its blood for the cause, the violence will only escalate. And what is now a virtual civil and sectarian war will become all too real for the Syrian people.