Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday, and urged Assad to restore peace in his violence-torn country. Assad reportedly said he wants to see an end to the violence plaguing his country, too, but his forces nonetheless continued their deadly bombardment of the rebel stronghold of Homs. Lavrov's visit came as Russia faces bitter criticism from the West for vetoing a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Assad. As violence rages in Syria, the world is increasingly united behind the idea that it's time for Assad to go — even Russia says Assad must make way for true democracy. So whose job should it be to push Assad out the door? Here, four possibilities:
1. President Obama needs to take the lead
"The Obama Administration has been behind the curve on confronting Syria's threat," says James Carafano at The Foundry. President Obama initially tried to engage Assad and prod him to make democratic reforms. Only this week did the administration close the U.S. embassy in Damascus. But even now, we're only lightly imposing sanctions "on a regime that is brutally murdering its people." It's time for the U.S. to "take action to help bring about Assad's downfall." Obama is right to stop short of military intervention, but he should step up sanctions and step up support — economic and diplomatic — for legitimate leaders of the democratic opposition.
2. Russia might be able to sort this out
Lavrov says Assad has asked Russia to broker talks with the opposition, say Henry Meyer and Ilya Arkhipov at Bloomberg. So in many ways, now it's up to Russia to make it happen. Russia (along with China) put itself on the spot by vetoing the Security Council resolution. As Syria's main supplier of arms, Russia has influence over Syria that other countries simply don't to bring to the table. The question is, will Moscow deliver?
3. Syria's neighbors should step in
The West won't intervene, and the U.N. "can't even pass a meek condemnatory resolution," says Saad Khan at The Huffington Post. That means "the ball is in the Arab League and Turkey's court." The Arab League's plan for Syria "explicitly called for Assad to step down," and "Ankara was among the first to condemn Assad's brutalities." As leaders in the region, these players have both legitimacy and responsibility. "Perhaps it is time for Ankara and the Arab League to start planning for a humanitarian intervention in Syria."
4. It's up to the Syrian people... with a little help from the West
Pressuring the Assad regime is a dead end, says Britain's Telegraph in an editorial. "All the evidence suggests that force alone will end Assad's misrule." But no foreign leaders seem to have the stomach for military intervention. So what's the answer? U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "has proposed that 'friends of democratic Syria' should coordinate assistance to Assad's opponents," much like they did in Libya. A group like that could supply weapons to the Free Syrian Army, and let Syrians get rid of Assad themselves.