Russia and China Block U.N. Action on Syrian Crisis

The veto and the mounting violence underlined the dynamics shaping what is proving to be the Arab world’s bloodiest revolt: diplomatic stalemate and failure as Syria plunges deeper into what many are already calling a civil war. Diplomats have lamented their lack of options in pressuring the Syrian government, and even some Syrian dissidents worry about what the growing confrontation will mean for a country reeling from bloodshed and hardship.

The veto is almost sure to embolden the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which brazenly carried out the assault on Homs on the very day that the Security Council had planned to vote. It came, too, around the anniversary of its crackdown in 1982 on another Syrian city, Hama, by Mr. Assad’s father, in which at least 10,000 people were killed in one of the bloodiest episodes in modern Arab history.

“It’s quite clear — this is a license to do more of the same and worse,” said Peter Harling, an expert on Syria at the International Crisis Group. “The regime will take it for granted that it can escalate further. We’re entering a new phase that will be far more violent still than what we’ve seen now.”

The Security Council voted 13 to 2 in favor of a resolution backing an Arab League peace plan for Syria, but the measure was blocked by Russia and China, which opposed what they saw as a potential violation of Syria’s sovereignty. The support of those countries has proven crucial in bolstering the Syrian government’s confidence, despite an isolation more pronounced than any time since the Assad family seized power more than four decades ago.

After the vote, and the failure before that of the Arab League peace plan to stem the violence, predictions were grim about what lay ahead in a conflict that the United Nations says has claimed more than 5,000 lives. To many, two inexorable forces were at work: a government bent on crushing the uprising by force, faced with an opposition that, if not increasing in numbers, appears to be radicalizing and growing in determination.

“What more do we need to know to act decisively in the Security Council?” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asked at a news conference in Munich. “To block this resolution is to bear responsibility for the horrors that are occurring on the ground in Syria.”

Responding to the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, who asked, “What’s the endgame?” Mrs. Clinton replied: “The endgame in the absence of us acting together as the international community, I fear, is civil war.”

Syrian opposition leaders said more than 200 people were killed in the attack in Homs, a city in central Syria that has emerged as the epicenter of the uprising. While the casualties were impossible to confirm, and were denied by Syria, reports of the bloodshed drew widespread international condemnation.

Protests broke out Saturday at Syrian embassies around the world, including in Egypt, Germany, Greece and Kuwait, and Tunisia expelled Syria’s ambassador.

President Obama condemned what he called “the Syrian government’s unspeakable assault against the people of Homs,” saying in a statement that Mr. al-Assad “has no right to lead Syria, and has lost all legitimacy with his people and the international community.” He accused Syria of having “murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children.”

The French foreign minister, Alain Juppé, said, “The massacre in Homs is a crime against humanity, and those responsible will have to answer for it.” NYT