The United Nations ceasefire monitors in Syria have confirmed what most of us already believed. The massacre in Houla in which 108 persons died, 49 of them children under the age of 10, was carried out by a militia loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada, Bulgaria, The Netherlands, Australia and Switzerland have all ordered the Syrian ambassadors out of their countries. In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland announced, “Today the United States informed the Syrian Chargé d’Affaires Zuheir Jabbour of his expulsion from the United States. He has 72 hours to leave the country.”
In Houla, the UN monitors conducted a forensic inspection and talked with the injured and witnesses. They found spent shells consistent with heavy artillery and tank tread tracks. They reported that there were house-to-house summary executions by persons believed to have been shabbihas, al-Assad militiamen.
U. N. envoy Koki Annan met with President al-Assad on Tuesday, and later warned that Syria is on a tipping point. Unless al-Assad complies with the ceasefire agreement and smacks down his militia as well, the country will tip into full-blown civil war. The Syrian Army continued shelling civilian communities which they claim are harboring “armed terrorist gangs.” Western governments are now considering the term “armed terrorist gangs” to be Assad-speak for rebels.
Even Russia has condemned the massacre, though there is no clear indication of how Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will respond. In the United Nations, Russia and China have resisted any unified effort to end the situation in Syria. Iran is also providing material support to the regime.
The Syrian opposition, which has been very disorganized so far, is making attempts to become united under a single leadership which can provided a viable alternative to the regime, just as the National Transitional Council did in Libya.