After more than a year of violent repression of protests that have taken the lives of thousands of people, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has figured out exactly how much he can get away with before his actions will provoke action from the West. Rather than being deterred by the prospect of an intervention to save the lives of his people, Assad now knows he can kill as many people as he likes. With reports of yet another massacre of dozens of women and children having been committed in the Homa region, the Syrian regime is demonstrating again that it will not be deterred by the condemnation of the international community from inflicting atrocities (let alone relinquish power). Indeed, rather than giving Assad pause, it may be that the latest statements of outrage issued by Secretary of State Clinton about events in Syria may just be confirming his impression that talk is all the United States and the West ever intend to do about the situation.
Clinton repeated earlier tough statements about Syria during a joint press conference with her Turkish counterpart. But as the U.S. has made it clear that no action will be taken without the consent of Syria’s Russian and Chinese allies, that is a virtual guarantee Assad has absolutely nothing to worry about. That the latest instance of mass slaughter — this time in the village of Qubeir where 78 persons are thought to have been killed, half of whom were women and children — happened while a United Nations peace plan was supposed to be implemented and U.N. personnel were in the country is just the latest evidence that Assad understands he can continue to act with impunity. If Assad is laughing at American suggestions he leave Syria, who can blame him for thinking U.S. policy is a joke?