United Nations cease-fire monitors have discovered the bodies of 13 people killed execution style with their hands bound behind their backs in the Assukar area of Deir Ezzor Province in eastern Syria. Opposition activists said the victims were electricity workers who had refused to end a protest strike.
The announcement of more violence after the massacre in Houla occurred as Turkey and Japan became the next countries to expel diplomats from Syria, along with the US, Canada, France, Germany and Australia. Syrian consular staff remain in Ankara. The Syrian government has given the Dutch charge d’affaires, once of the last high-ranking Western diplomats to remain, 72 hours to leave.
Russia, which is still selling arms to the Syrian regime, has continued to oppose any intervention under the United Nations Security Council. Russia’s foreign ministry described the expulsion of diplomats as “counterproductive” because “after all, vital [diplomatic] channels… end up being closed.” China, which has twice blocked UN Security Council resolutions for tougher sanctions on Syria, has reiterated its opposition to “forced regime change” and military intervention.
Following his meeting with President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday, Kofi Annan, special envoy to the UN and the Arab League, told the Security Council that the “uprising was unlikely to stop without political negotiations, which appeared to be impossible at the moment,” according to the New York Times. In his meeting with Assad, Annan had told him that the crisis has reached a “tipping point” and disputed Assad’s contention that outsiders are responsible for the violence. He also appealed to Assad to follow Annan’s peace plan, which was agreed upon in April but “which the [Syrian] government has basically ignored since officially agreeing to it.”
Neither a diplomatic nor a military solutions can resolve the crisis, say David F. Gordon, head of research at Eurasia Group, and Stanford University professor Stephen D. Krasner in Politico. They argue that the US, the UK and the Friends of Syria need to pursue additional, more stringent economic measures:
They should declare that any new loans or contracts made with the Assad government are illegitimate and any successor government is not obligated to honor them.
A refusal to recognize contracts signed by the Syrian government would make it increasingly difficult for the Assad regime to get loans, begin to sever Syria from international capital flows and, over time, intensify the Assad government’s financing crisis.
Gordon and Krasner both say that the two most likely outcomes under current circumstances are “protracted civil war or regime collapse and the emergence of an extremist Sunni state.” Syria’s economy contracted significantly last year and foreign investment has fallen by two-thirds from 2010 – 2011.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported 39 new deaths, including 15 government soldiers, across the country on Wednesday. In a sad testament to the human toll of Syria’s 15-month uprising — in which over 15,000 have died — NPR reports that Bassel Al Shahade, a Syrian filmmaker who was studying at Syracuse University under a Fulbright Scholarship, was killed in Homs where he was filming on Monday. After the protests broke out in Syria in March of 2011, Al Shahade returned to Syria, saying that he had to be present “when the revolution is happening.” Activists posted a video on Monday of the bodies of Al Shahade and three others shrouded in white while being borne through Homs.
Al Shahade made this short video entitled Saturday Morning Gift featuring his cousin Ziad and based on a “real interview with a kid [who] survived the 2006 war on Lebanon.” It is a lyrical piece in which a boy, lazing in his bed, talks about being woken by his mother who tickles his feet and plays music. Then the boy says “I hate airplanes” and what sounds like an explosion is heard. He gets up in darkness to look through the door to the kitchen and call his mother and it is silent.
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