It's not just the U.S. and its European allies who are calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down anymore. In a surprising development, Ali al-Moussawi, an adviser to Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, told The New York Times today that the Iraqi government had sent messages to Assad that he should step down over the regime's crackdown on protesters, which reportedly resulted in six more deaths today. "We believe that the Syrian people should have more freedom and have the right to experience democracy," he explained. The Times explains that while Iraq and Syria have long been adversaries, the two countries had strengthened their economic and diplomatic relations over the past year at Iran's urging. Now, the paper adds, Iraqi officials are worried that their country could be destabilized if Assad's government collapses. In diplomatic speak, Iraq has now even gone further than Turkey, which has only "lost confidence" in the Assad regime (to be sure, Iraq's call comes circuitously from the prime minister's adviser via the Times rather than from Maliki himself).
Earlier today, the Times reported that the Obama administration has become increasingly convinced that Assad's days are numbered, and has been planning accordingly. The U.S. is working with Turkey to prevent a civil war among Syria's Alawite, Druse, Christian and Sunni sects, the paper notes, and "officials at the State Department have also been pressing Syria's opposition leaders to unite as they work to bring down the Assad government, and to build a new government." That language sounds a lot like what we heard in Libya with regards to the National Transitional Council.