State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. holds “the Syrian government responsible for this slaughter of innocent lives.”
Earlier Tuesday, numerous other western countries, including Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain announced they were expelling Syrian diplomats.
The name missing from that list is Russia, whose Foreign Minister yesterday said that the rebels share the blame with the government for the massacre. This Russian roadblock prevents serious action by the UN Security Council. Lavrov did say that the Syrian government “bears the main responsibility for what is going on,” but that could be read as more of a warning to the Assad regime that their actions threatened continued Russian support, rather than a green light for action that will imminently be taken.
Kofi Annan, showing himself to be increasingly powerless, expressed “grave concern” to President Bashar al-Assad today, but there are no teeth behind the six-point peace plan he drew up, so it has predictably not been enforced. There’s no real appetite for military intervention in Syria the way there was in Libya, for a variety of reasons. There are now whispers about arming the Syrian rebels, but I don’t think it’s possible to do so at a level that checks regime power legitimately, and there are plenty of concerns around taking that action, mainly that we don’t have a grasp on the identity of the Syrian rebels, and that their stability and cohesion have come into question during the perilous period of the past several months.
So Houla is not looking like a turning point, just a fleeting moment to renew attention to a slow-motion tragedy playing out, with tens of thousands of protesters dead, without much in the way of reaction or response.