Word today is that Syrian tanks are shelling residential neighborhoods in the country’s third largest city, Homs, in an attempt to quell protests. It goes without saying, but mortar fire is not a legitimate way to confront protesters.
It looks increasingly like the Syrian government is waging war on its own people. The death toll is approaching 1,000 people, which is commonly considered the threshold for calling something a civil war. When Gaddafi undertook very similar actions, the international community came down much hard. The line from the UN was that Gaddafi lost his legitimacy as a ruler of Libya.
So far,we are not hearing that refrain about Bashar Assad.
Part of the problem is that the Security Council is stuck on this issue. After expressing concerns that NATO has overstepped its Security Council mandate in Libya, Russia and China are wary of letting the council do anything on Syria. At this point, for the Security Council to anything on Syria probably requires Syria’s traditional allies to step up (I’m thinking Turkey, which is on the Security Council) and/or a regional body like the Arab league to make some condemnatory statement. Until then, it is unlikely that Russia or China will budge and the international response to the Syria crackdown will be limited to western countries that already have a tenuous relationship with the Syrian regime.