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Syria Under Siege

Samara Greenberg

The Middle East is in the midst of great change. With the world concerned over NATO action in Libya, the Palestinian unity deal, and Osama bin Laden’s surprise death, the six weeks of ongoing violence in Syria by the government against its people has seemingly fallen to the wayside. But with over 540 people confirmed dead since March 15, it’s time for the world to take note.

According to Syria’s state-run news agency, SANA, army units began withdrawing from Daraa on Thursday. Daraa, where the uprisings began, has been under military siege for more than a week with army tanks and snipers occupying the town. While there, the army cut electricity and telephone services, and activists say there is a shortage of water, bread, and gas.

Syrian protesters showed support for the Asad-starved town of Daraa by waving bread over their heads.

Washington, which under President Obama has tried to mend relations with Syria, refrained from action during the first few weeks of violence. In his first concrete move against the Syrian regime, President Obama last week issued an executive order imposing sanctions on three top Syrian officials and the country’s intelligence agency, and warned that President Bashar al-Asad could be next. In addition, representatives of the EU members in Rome today will discuss the possibility of expanding sanctions against Syria in light of the continued violence.

Washington has got to amp up the pressure on Damascus. Reports today are citing fresh raids and mass arrests in Syrian cities and towns and more will likely follow on Friday. Asad has made the decision that he will fight to remain in power and use any degree of repression at his disposal. He will not make concessions or bring about the reforms that wishful thinkers in Washington believe are possible. For Asad, this is a zero-sum game. It is time the U.S. treats it the same and firmly commits to the downfall of the regime in Damascus.