Bashar al-Assad is going to find himself increasingly isolated, particularly now that his longtime backer, Russia, has signaled that it can do no more to protect the regime against further sanctions or military action.
Moscow is one of Assad's few remaining allies, resisting pressure to call for his resignation and, with China, blocking a Western-crafted U.N. Security Council resolution that would have condemned a crackdown that has killed thousands of civilians.That's on the heels of the Arab League monitoring mission finding all kinds of problems with how the regime is conducting itself (and individual monitors noting that Assad's regime is engaging in war crimes/crimes against humanity in its ongoing brutal crackdown against dissenters and opponents to the regime).
But Russia can do no more, state-run news agency Itar-Tass quoted Mikhail Margelov, a senior lawmaker who is President Dmitry Medvedev's special Africa envoy and has also engaged in diplomacy over Syria, as saying.
"(Our) veto on the U.N. Security Council resolution was the last instrument allowing Bashar al-Assad to maintain the status quo in the international arena," Margelov was quoted as saying.
The veto "was a serious signal to the president of Syria from Russia. This veto has exhausted our arsenal of such resources," said Margelov, who is chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia's upper parliament house.
Yet, the Russians agreed to a new weapons deal that would net the Syrian regime dozens of new trainer jets and other systems valued at $550 million.
The Arab League called on Assad to begin an orderly transfer of power, but as one would expect of a totalitarian dicator, Assad rejected it out of hand.
The initiative agreed to by Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo on Sunday requires Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to transfer power to a deputy and allow the formation of a national unity government with the opposition within two months. The new government would be responsible for organizing parliamentary and presidential elections under Arab and international supervision.Assad continues to claim that the uprising against his regime is the work of outside elements, terrorists, and that he's within his rights to use force to quell the violence. Of course, that would require the suspension of belief considering that thousands of civilians have been killed in documented cases by his security forces and his regime continues detaining civilians suspected of being members of the opposition.
In reports Monday, Syrian state media denounced the plan as a “flagrant” violation of Syrian sovereignty. Qatar said the Arab League will ask the United Nations Security Council to support the initiative.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels expressed support for Arab League efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis. They also approved additional EU sanctions on Syria, imposing travel bans and asset freezes on another 22 people and eight companies linked to the Assad government.