As Syrian security forces continue their Ramadan offensive on the Syrian cities of Hama and Deir al-Zour--one that resulted in anywhere from 70 to 150 deaths on Sunday, according to activists--the international community is speaking out against the carnage, which Bashar al-Assad's regime blames on foreign conspirators and "armed terrorists groups." World leaders' rhetoric can speak to the actions the leaders are willing to take in the face of what appears to be the Syrian government's deadliest campaign since the uprising erupted over four months ago. Let's take a look at what the major players are saying:
- United States: President Obama called the reports out of Hama "horrifying" and said the U.S. "will continue to increase our pressure on the Syrian regime, and work with others around the world to isolate the Assad government and stand with the Syrian people" as they seek a "democratic transition."
- European Union: The EU, which has already slapped sanctions on Assad and other Syrian officials and government entities, announced today that it will impose additional asset freezes and travel bans on five more Syrian military and government officials, according to the AP. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton asserted that Sunday's events showed that the Syrian regime is "unwilling to implement the reforms it has promised in response to the legitimate requests of the Syrian people."
- United Kingdom: In an interview with the BBC on Monday, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said he supports more sanctions against the Syrian regime but added that if diplomatic pressure is to have any impact, it will need to come not just from Western nations but also from Arab nations and regional powers like Turkey, an ally of Syria's until recent months. He said military action against Syria, even with U.N. authorization, was "not a remote possibility."
- France: French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Christine Fages said Syrian officials "must know, now more than ever, that they will have to be held accountable for their acts."
- Germany: Germany, which is handing over the rotating UN Security Council presidency to India, has requested that the council meet in New York today to discuss a "clear condemnation" of the escalating violence in Syria.
Turkey: Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu condemned Syria's assault, noting that "beginning the holy month of Ramadan with bloodshed is unacceptable." A senior Turkish official added that sanctions were now "on the table" but "ruled out any attempt to intervene militarily by creating a security zone," according to The Wall Street Journal.
Russia: Russia's foreign ministry said it was "seriously concerned" about the reported death toll in Syria. "The use of force against civilians and representatives of state structures is unacceptable and must cease," the statement declared.
China: Chinese officials, as far as we can tell, have remained silent.
What's the larger significance of all these statements? While President Obama's statement may have been strongly worded (if still vague), The New York Times notes that the Obama administration hasn't formally demanded that Assad step down, as it has with Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. Turkey, meanwhile, appears to be taking a tougher stance on Assad, according to The Journal. "Turkey's language hardened overnight, from describing the attacks as something it couldn't condone, to 'unacceptable,' much stronger language in diplomatic code and falling in line with Western allies," the paper writes. Analysts tell the BBC that Russia's statement on Monday also represents "Moscow's strongest criticism yet of President Assad."
We'll know more about the international response when the Security Council meets in New York this afternoon. But while the U.S., U.K., France, and Germany will urge the council to condemn the violence in Syria, don't expect that measure or more aggressive actions to be adopted. The AP explains that Russia and China--plus temporary Security Council members like India, South Africa, Brazil, and Lebanon--oppose any condemnation of Damascus because "they fear that it may be used as a pretext for armed intervention against Syria. They say a resolution allowing the use of all means to protect the civilian population in Libya has been misused by NATO to justify five months of airstrikes against Muammar Qaddafi's regime."