June 22, 2018
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Assad needs to go

Syria has become a lesson in how to achieve nothing. After 15 months of fighting and 10,000 dead, there’s a familiar pattern: angry demands that dictator Bashar Assad go, new diplomatic sanctions and a brief pause in the killings to bury the dead. Then the cycle repeats.

There is, of course, generalized talk of a Libyan-style intervention but little support for this hawkish solution. Last week’s NATO summit in Chicago showed no appetite among the only military alliance that could sweep in and remove Assad. Besides, there’s the messy question about who would take over among a rebel alliance that agrees on Assad’s removal and little else.

But now maybe the bottom has been reached. Government thugs killed more than 100 residents of a small village, most of them women and children. U.N. refugee officials say the massacre proceeded execution style, house by house. There are gruesome pictures of tiny bodies for anyone who needs convincing.

Syria’s military killers have hit rock bottom before by shelling residential neighborhoods and torturing prisoners. What’s different now is that its thin diplomatic cover — provided by its prime arms supplier, Russia — may be shredding.

Even Moscow couldn’t stomach the latest slaughter. It went along with a note of official condemnation, though Russia had blocked prior U.N. Security Council denunciations.

This shift could be a big change among more usual steps. A string of countries including the United States expelled top Syrian envoys.

More than ever, Assad needs to go. The new steps should be decisive, not a repeat of the past.

San Francisco Chronicle (May 29)

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