Nothing stops Syrian President Bashar Assad. Saudi Arabia recalls its envoy. The Arab League calls on him to stop the violence. The United Nations talks – and his army shoots to kill.
When it seemed things could not get worse in Syria, they did, as Assad leads a daily war on protesters. The death toll has passed 1,700. More people were killed in the oil-rich but mainly poor eastern city of Deir el-Zour Monday, a day after at least 42 people were gunned down in the same city by machine gun and artillery fire.
The bloodshed and the protest movement continue to intensify in tandem. More than 300 people were killed in the past week, the highest death toll since the Arab Spring uprising broke out five months ago.
Deir el-Zour has been under siege for more than week, and activists have reported it is paralyzed as medicine and the supply of basic goods run low.
Elsewhere in the country, Assad’s soldiers and secret police have been trying to prevent large crowds from gathering for Ramadan prayers at mosques, where they often stage anti-government demonstrations after prayers.
The unusual action of Saudi Arabia in recalling its ambassador has not yet had any effect on Assad. Ironically, Saudi Arabia sent 1,000 of its soldiers to neighboring Bahrain earlier this year to help the kingdom put down an uprising.
King Abdullah, who does not tolerate public protests in his own country, said Sunday he recalled his ambassador and demanded "an end to the killing machine and bloodshed." He added, “Spilling the blood of the innocent for any reasons or pretext leads to no path to ... hope.”
The Arab League, which has been mainly silent since the uprising began in Syria, stated on Sunday that is “alarmed” and pleaded for Assad to halt violence.
Even Russia, a close ally of Syria, has begun to worry about the growing crisis, which has reached the point of life-or-death for his regime – and for thousands of dissenters.
The United Nations continues to debate the situation and has called for sanctions but has not imposed an arms embargo on Syria, which may have little effect anyway due to Assad's huge stockpile of arms that have been supplied by Russia and many European Union countries.
Assad’s opposition has not been able to crack his two prime areas of support – the capital of Damascus, home to tens of thousands of government workers, and the army, most of whose officers are from the minority Alawite sect that Assad represents.
On the other hand, Assad’s army cannot take military control simultaneously of all of the cities where protesters refuse to back down.