As pro-democracy protests continue to face crackdowns in Syria, Western nations are looking to ratchet up sanctions against the Assad government, as well as taking other, as yet unspecified “steps” against the regime.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to her EU counterpart today, and the two agreed to “increase pressure and further isolate the Assad regime” going forward. In the near term this will almost certainly center around sanctions.
In the long term, however, France is still hoping for a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria for the crackdown. They say there is growing support, but either Russia or China is still seen likely to veto, particularly after the anti-Libya resolution ended up a springboard to a NATO war.
Activists have put the death toll of the crackdown against protesters at over 700 civilians in Syria. While this cannot be confirmed the Syrian military has been active in moving against demonstrators, and has increasingly resorted to using tanks.
But while the sanctions and other efforts to “express solidarity” with the protesters appear to be popular with Western nations, they appear to primarily play into the hands of the Assad government, which is then able to paint the pro-democracy protesters as foreign-backed troublemakers. This has been particularly true of the US, which has confirmed providing “secret” funding for certain elements in the protests.