Western and Arab governments, stymied by Russian and Chinese vetoes at the UN, are struggling to find ways to support the fractious Syrian opposition as violence in that country persists.
The Guardian reported Tuesday that the U.S. may be considering an executive order that would authorize covert action against Bashar al-Assad’s increasingly chaotic regime. It is not clear, however, that President Obama would sign such an order. Nor is it certain that covert action would succeed.
“It would leak in an instant and it would be radioactive,” Robert Baer, a former CIA officer in the region told the paper. “They [the Obama administration] have no idea of what to do now.”
Hope for a negotiated end to the conflict, which has claimed thousands of civilian and rebel lives, faded after China joined Russia to veto a Security Council resolution last Saturday. On Tuesday, Russia’s foreign minister touched down in Syria, where he was to meet with al-Assad.
At the same time, reports from inside the country say the crackdown on the rebel stronghold of Homs is intensifying. At least 94 people were killed in shelling Monday alone, according to BBC sources. Russian-made tanks have surrounded the city, but an all-out ground assault has not yet commenced.
The U.S. and Britain recalled their ambassadors to Syria this week, part of a diplomatic push that has so far proved ineffectual. Canada is maintaining diplomatic relations with al-Assad’s regime for now. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to raise the issue of China’s UN veto during this week’s bilateral summit in Beijing.