Syria Massacres 70 Protesters, Banks on Russian Support
Syrian forces murdered 70 more protesters Monday, as Russia in under international pressure to withdraw its support of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been almost totally isolated outside of Lebanon and Iran.
The latest carnage included 12 suspected army deserters as mass demonstrations spread throughout the country, testing how much more blood Assad can shed. He is in a do-or-die battle, vowing not to be the next Qaddafi or Mubarak but crowding himself into a tight corner as the Arab League turns against him by suspending Damascus from the organization.
The death toll of 70 was doubled by human rights activists, who gather information from opposition sources while international media remain barred from the country.
"Syria is not Libya. The Libyan scenario will not be repeated. What is happening in Syria is different from what happened in Libya, and the Syrian people should not worry,” said Foreign Minister Walid Muallem
He warned that the Arab League's decision was "a dangerous step" and accused the United States of inciting anti-Assad protests. Government media have continuously claimed that “armed terrorists” are responsible for most of the murders despite smuggled videos that have shown tanks mowing down peace demonstrators.
Syrian officials are in Moscow to try to shore up support from Moscow after Jordan’s King Abdullah said Monday, “If I were in his [Assad’s] shoes, I would step down.” He later denied that he was calling for Assad to quit.
As Arab nations defect from aligning themselves with Assad, Russia and China are finding it harder to vote against sanctions proposed by the United Nations Security Council.
"What is pressing now is to implement the Arab League's initiative appropriately and earnestly," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said, according to AFP. "China once again urges the Syrian government and all relevant parties to cease violence.”
Russia, which has a naval base at a Syrian port, is the last major holdout, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized the Arab League decision and echoed Syrian accusations that the West is the source of the problem in Syria.
"There continues to be incitement of radical opponents [to Assad] to take a firm course for regime change and reject any invitations to dialogue," Russia’s Interfax news agency reported .
Meanwhile, the Arab League is sending to Syria 500 human rights activists, journalists and military personnel to monitor the situation .