Syria: France, Britain and Italy recall ambassadors

The World

There is not a lot European countries can do to stop the Bashar al-Assad regime's onslaught against its own people – especially in light of this weekend's vetoing of a Security Council resolution by Russia and China.

Recalling ambassadors from Damascus for consultation is about the only card they can play. That is exactly what Britain, France and Italy have done. No word about the German government's intentions. But police in Berlin have arrested two men suspected of spying for Syria.

The Obama administration has gone further and is shutting down its embassy in Damascus completely. Chris Doyle of CAABU, the Council for Arab-British Understanding, says that the British moves and the stronger American one make sense. "For the British something had to be done, withdrawing the ambassador was sensible." He added, "You can't close the embassy because you want some presence to provide eyes and ears on the ground."

Doyle points out, "The American situation is one of security." It was simply too dangerous to leave the embassy open.

The difficulties facing western governments are neatly summarized in this piece in The Guardian by Julian Borger and Ian Black, who recently spent a few weeks in Syria. It notes that any action to suppress the Assad regime and help the Free Syrian Army, must be covert and keeping a secret in this situation is almost impossible.

Chris Doyle finds this "Worrying. Clearly the regime is testing the will of the international community with this full assault on Homs. They have seen if they kill 30 or 40 people a day there is no reaction. There are elements in the regime that want to see what happens if you kill 200 or 300 people a day."

Given the ferocity of the fighting around Homs, the regime will soon have its answer.

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