Time to stop waffling on Syria

Blow to Assad’s Inner Circle

From the Editors of the Washington Post:  The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad has suffered a series of blows in recent days : defections of generals and an ambassador; a rebel offensive that has turned parts of Damascus into a war zone; and, on Wednesday, an apparent bombing that killed at least three of Mr. Assad’s close associates, including his brother-in-law. . . .

The regime’s quick demise is to be much wished for — but it is not something that can be counted upon. Even less probable is the managed transition the Obama administration is banking on, in which Mr. Assad and his immediate circle would depart, leaving behind an intact administration and army to negotiate a settlement with the rebels. More likely the regime will now escalate its military assaults, using weapons it has held back until now, such as its heaviest artillery and fixed-wing aircraft. As Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister of Mr. Assad’s ally Russia, bluntly put it Wednesday, “Assad will not go on his own, and our Western partners don’t know what to do about that. . . .”

If the Obama administration wishes to save lives in Syria, it should support the creation of safe zones near the border where civilians can take refuge. If it wishes to speed the end of the Assad regime, it should provide the opposition with weapons that could tip the military balance. If what it mainly wants is to avoid getting involved in the conflict, despite Syria’s vital importance to U.S. interests in the Middle East, it should, at least, stop supporting diplomacy whose only beneficiaries are Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad.  (graphic: Patrick Chappatte/International Herald Tribune)

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