After seven months of street protests demanding the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, and a nascent armed insurgency against his rule, Syria agreed on Wednesday to an Arab League plan to withdraw the army from cities, release political prisoners and hold talks with the opposition.NATO has already ruled out any kind of action along the lines of the Libyan mission, which means that the Syrian protesters are on their own for now.
Assad's critics have dismissed his past offers of dialogue as insincere, saying the killing must stop before any meaningful talks can take place. The main opposition National Council has not commented on Syria's acceptance of the Arab League plan.
However, Paris-based Burhan Ghalioun, one of the council's leading figures, questioned whether it would be implemented.
"The regime has accepted the Arab initiative out of fear of Arab isolation, its weakness and lack of options. But its acceptance does not mean it will respect its clauses," Ghalioun wrote on his Facebook page.
In Syria, residents and activists said there were no signs so far of any troop pullout, and security operations continued.
In Homs, tanks fired heavy machineguns and anti-aircraft guns in Bab Amro, a hotbed of protests and scene of operations by the military against insurgents hiding there.
Activists named two civilians killed in the bombardment. A rubbish truck driver district was among three others killed elsewhere in the city of one million, where army snipers were shooting from rooftops and soldiers fired from checkpoints.
The Arab League is powerless to stop Assad, and Assad's regime continues to get support from Iran, who is using the crisis to further its own interests as a regional power to thwart moves by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Egyptians.
So much for that supposed lifeline. Indeed, the "deal" has no teeth; there are no timetables for withdrawal of forces and a cessation of use of military force to quell protests. In other words, it's not even worth the paper it's written on. Assad will continue murdering opponents to his regime and there's nothing the Arab League will do about it.
Assad's regime is throwing up all kinds of roadblocks for protesters and those trying to escape the violence, including laying minefields along the border with Lebanon to thwart escaping refugees from the centers of violence.