Opinion Brief

Syria: Should the West oust Assad?

Syria's president is using increasingly brutal tactics to stamp out protests, and some say it's time for the U.S. and its allies to demand that he relinquish power

Security forces went door-to-door in several Syrian cities on Tuesday, detaining hundreds of people in the latest push to shut down protests against the government of Bashar al-Assad. Syria's latest move appeared similar to the tactic Iran used to extinguish protests two years ago, fueling speculation that Iran is helping Assad with his crackdown. More than 800 people have been killed since Assad unleashed his security forces on the protesters, who began taking to the streets in March. Has the time come for the U.S. and its allies to make it clear that Assad must go?

There is no excuse for tolerating Assad: The Obama administration has been "consistently sluggish about siding with the Arab revolutionaries," says Jackson Diehl in The Washington Post. "But nowhere has that fecklessness been more obvious, more damaging, and less defensible than in Syria." From the beginning, Assad has met the protesters with "brutality rivaling that of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya." The least Obama could do is proclaim that it's time for Assad to go — there's no good reason for doing "so little, and so slowly".
"Why is the West so sluggish on Syria?"

Syria is a lot trickier than Libya: Obama held back because he "understands the complexities of Syria's unrest," says Mona Yacoubian at the Council on Foreign Relations. Syria's fortunes are tied up with those of Iran, Lebanon, Hamas, and Israel, so "the stakes are far higher" than they were in Libya. But now we've reached a turning point, and it's clear Assad plans to do whatever it takes to stay in power. It's unlikely that the U.S. will intervene militarily — but it may pressure Assad with new sanctions.
"Behind Syria's crackdown"

We can't stop Assad, but we can prosecute him: "Nobody is suggesting 'boots on the ground' in Damascus," says Geoffrey Robertson in The Sydney Morning Herald, although that would stop the slaughter, while the West's "half-hearted sanctions" won't. As a sovereign ruler, Assad has a right to use force, even deadly force, to disperse demonstrators, but his brutality has now reached the point where it qualifies as a crime against humanity. So it's up to the United Nations Security Council to deal with this by sending Assad to the International Criminal Court.
"Let's bring this tyrant to justice"

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