Assad’s Syria: A Sad State of Affairs

James Phillips /

Syria’s embattled Bashar al-Assad regime has pulled no punches in its ruthless repression of Syria’s long-suffering people. With the exception of Muammar Qadhafi’s Libyan regime, no other Arab government has spilled so much blood to maintain itself in power against peaceful demonstrators that have flooded the streets in protest during this “Arab Spring.”

Since the protests began two months ago, more than 750 demonstrators have been killed. Assad deployed tanks to confront demonstrators, and this week his army bombarded Syria’s third largest city, Homs, with tank shells.

Assad’s regime has chased Western reporters out of the country to cover up its serial mass murders. An Iranian–American reporter, Dorothy Parvaz, who disappeared when she arrived in Damascus on April 29, was reportedly secretly deported to Iran. Iran, which is the Syrian dictatorship’s chief foreign ally, is believed to be helping the Assad regime repress and intimidate the opposition.

Not that the Assad family needs much help in brutalizing its own people. Bashar’s father, Hafez al-Assad, constructed a brutal police state that has murdered tens of thousands of Syrians since he seized power in a 1970 coup. In 1982, the Assad regime slaughtered an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Syrians and paved over their remains after an uprising in the city of Hama.

Despite the brutality of the Assad regime and its long record of supporting terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas that have killed Americans, the Obama Administration has remained wedded to its naïve policy of engaging the regime. It has dragged its feet on imposing stronger sanctions on Damascus or withdrawing the U.S. ambassador, apparently because it still hopes to pull Syria into peace negotiations with Israel and pull it away from its Iranian ally.

The Administration’s weak and hesitant response to the ongoing massacres in Syria has prompted growing criticism in Congress. On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of Senators led by Marco Rubio (R–FL), John McCain (R–AZ), Joseph Lieberman (I-D–CT), and Ben Cardin (D–MD) announced that they were introducing a resolution that calls for the Administration to take stronger action against the Assad regime. Even Senator John Kerry (D–MA), formerly a prominent advocate for courting the Assad regime, has admitted that this policy has failed. Perhaps he can persuade Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama—his former colleagues in the Senate—that it is time to reconsider their ill-conceived policy toward Syria.

For more on U.S. policy on Syria, see:

Time for the Obama Administration to Support Freedom in Syria