Syrian President Bashar Assad 311 (R).
(photo credit: Sana / Reuters)
Criticism from the United States, European Union, UN Human Rights Council and
even the Arab League has not yet made impact on Bashar Assad, as his brutal
crackdown enters its tenth month. Now we know why.
outside Syria doesn’t matter,” Assad, speaking in perfect English, calmly told
Barbara Walters in his first interview with an American television reporter
since the uprising began in March. Walters and her ABC Nightline crew came to
Damascus during a rare opening of Syria to foreign journalists. Neil MacFarquhar
and Anthony Shadid of The New York Times, both of whom speak Arabic, also have
reported in recent days from Syria, providing glimpses of the regime’s
brutality, though they did not meet Assad.
With Walters the Syrian
dictator projected the same divorced-from-reality worldview he conveyed in his
last interview with an American media outlet, The Wall Street Journal
, back in
January. He declared then that Syria was immune to the kinds of disturbances
taking place in Tunisia and Egypt because unlike those countries Syria never
engaged in any relations with Israel.
Since that veneer of stability was
busted two months later with the start of the Syrian uprising, the regime’s main
message has been that foreign provocateurs, not Syrians, are behind the
protests. Yet the real foreigners weighing in so far have been Arab and Western
governments, and UN officials, criticizing Assad, some demanding that he step
down, some imposing a mix of sanctions to bring pressure on the regime to end
the internal bloodshed.
Here Assad does seem to care about opinion
outside Syria, and has reacted, though not in a way that is helpful. The numbers
of killings by the regime has risen every time a foreign government has
criticized Assad’s rule.
Assad is non-discriminatory in his
dismissiveness, ignoring the US, EU, UN and Arab neighbors equally. His
acceptance in early November of the Arab League plan to withdraw Syrian forces
from cities and towns across the country turned out to be just as hollow as the
national speeches Assad delivered months ago promising
IRONICALLY, ASSAD’S claim to Barbara Walters that he is not crazy
would appear to be correct.
He is not crazy. He is diabolical. The
calmness of his detachment, of his denial of responsibility for the actions of
his own security forces and his complete lack of remorse for the killing is
Under most circumstances, the notion that an Arab
leader could call into question the credibility of a United Nations report would
be considered laughable. But Assad did when dismissing the latest Human Rights
Council report that cited more than 4,000 people who have been killed, 300 of
them children, and Syrians of all ages being imprisoned and
Indeed, it was the arrest and torture of schoolchildren in
Daraa in March for scrawling anti-regime graffiti that ignited the uprising in
The only UN body with real power that can impose sanctions and
refer Assad to the International Criminal Court is the UN Security
But there Russia and China, with their veto power already used
once and threatened to be employed again, remain Assad’s staunchest
But if world leaders are truly committed to seeing Assad go,
then they must mobilize together to see that he does leave, and here the US can
play a critical leadership role.
, there must be a concerted
effort now to adopt a meaningful UN Security Council resolution.
and China must understand that the Assad regime’s continuation threatens their
own interests in Syria.
, Assad’s cri%mes against humanity should
be referred without delay to the International Criminal Court for
, Arab League sanctions already approved should be
, the White House should recognize that sending
Ambassador Ford back to Damascus was a mistake. After the US Embassy was
attacked and several Arab ambassadors departed, Ford’s return sends mixed
messages about the US resolve to join with other nations in supporting the
Syrian protesters and ending the Assad regime.
“The heart of every Syrian
is tremendously hurting by watching victims fall daily and the slow response of
the international community,” said Radwan Ziadeh, a leading Syrian human rights
activist who currently is based in Washington, DC, in his appearance at the UN
Human Rights Council last week, the third time the Geneva-based body has
convened in special session to discuss Syria.
Each Arab country
undergoing upheavals is charting its own course with the final outcome
uncertain. Fear of what may happen in Syria after Assad falls is not an answer.
It’s an excuse for not recognizing the evil and taking the bold actions to end
the horrors that the Syrian people are enduring.The writer is the
American Jewish Committee’s director of media relations.