Syria’s bloody crackdown

The Syrian regime is using tanks, ground troops, snipers, and house-to-house searches to crush the protest movement.

Syria unleashed tanks and 5,000 ground troops against unarmed demonstrators in Daraa, the southern city at the heart of the five-week-old revolt. Snipers killed dozens of protesters as security forces occupied mosques and searched house-to-house for the rebellion’s leaders. “There are bodies in the street,” said one resident. “Anyone who walks outside is getting shot at.”

The brutal crackdown signaled that the regime, once inclined to concessions, now intends to crush the protest movement. More than 400 people have been killed already, said Human Rights Watch, and hundreds more are missing in Daraa, Douma, and other restive enclaves. The U.S., Great Britain, France, and other nations have threatened new sanctions, but they haven’t called for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

That feeble response is hardly surprising, said Jacob Heilbrunn in The National Interest. Obama has “tried to play kissy face” with Assad for years, and has nothing to show for it. The Obama administration’s failed policy of engagement now leaves it “paralyzed by the prospect of a genuine Syrian revolt.” Syria may yet “topple into anarchy,” but if Assad survives, he’ll emerge an even weaker “puppet ruler of the Iranian mullahs.”

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Whether Assad stays or goes, the Obama administration’s delay in reacting to Syria’s freedom movement “is shameful,” said The Washington Post in an editorial. To stand by while innocent protesters are gunned down “makes a mockery of the U.S. commitment to human rights.” The president may be hoping that Assad will follow through on reforms, so that he can be part of a Middle East peace process. But after last week’s massacres, Syria will “hardly be a credible partner for Israel.”

So let’s get serious about regime change, said Investor’s Business Daily. Libya may be irritating, but “Syria is and has been a direct threat to American interests.” It’s the “Club Med of international terrorism” and Iran’s closest ally, arming Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon to wage “war on our democratic ally Israel.” That’s reason enough for the U.S. to support the democracy movement in Syria, and “not just with words.” Assad is one more dictator who must go, and “we need to make it happen.”

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.