According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 16 civilians, including women and children, were killed in the city of Homs Sunday night in a massacre believed to be the work of the pro-Syrian government group “Shahiba.” The Local Coordination Committee put the death toll as high as 45 with causes of death ranging from stabbings and breaking of necks and limbs, to burning alive from heating fuel.
Images of the victims’ mutilated bodies were publicized on the Internet by activists in an effort to expose the brutal government crackdown of the Asad regime, which according to the United Nations has left at least 7,500 dead. The government, however, maintains that the killings and circulation of images are an attempt by “terrorist armed groups” to discredit the regime.
A demonstrator punches through a portrait of Syria’s President Bashar al-Asad during a protest outside the Syrian Embassy in London.
Indeed, the Syrian government, backed by Tehran, has blamed its uprising on everyone but itself. According to Syrian Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud, “terrorist gangs” backed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar are murdering civilians in order to “incite international reaction against Syria.” And Iran, Syria’s enduring ally, recently blamed the United States for supplying weapons to opposition forces—an interesting accusation in light of the Obama administration’s stated policy against providing the rebels with arms or military assistance.
Over the weekend, UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan attempted to obtain an immediate cease-fire deal from Syrian President Bashar al-Asad to restore political dialogue, grant admittance for humanitarian agencies, and propose various routes to ending the violence. Not surprisingly, Asad rejected all resolutions, saying that no political solution or action is possible “while there are armed terrorist groups operating and spreading chaos and instability.”
Syria serves as a political extension of Iran, making the dissolution of Asad’s illegitimate regime vital to U.S. interests. However, the Obama administration still refuses to explore military intervention and the possibility of implementing a no fly zone as viable policy options. A Syria afflicted by civil war is a threat not only to its people but to Israel and U.S. interests as well. At this point, the administration should gravely consider aiding the Syrian opposition, and on a level that can help turn the tide of war.