REPORTING FROM BEIRUT -- With NATO bombing of Libya set to end, U.S. Sen. John McCain on Sunday raised the possibility of some kind of military attack on Syria, where the government of Bashar Assad has been accused of brutally cracking down on protesters.
“Now that military operations in Libya are ending, there will be renewed focus on what partial military operations might be considered to protect civilian lives in Syria,” McCain (R-Ariz.) said at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Jordan. “The Assad regime should not consider that it can get away with mass murder. Kadafi made that mistake and it cost him everything.”
There was no immediate response from the Assad government, which has blamed “armed groups” for the violence that has swept the nation since mid-March. The United Nations has said the death toll is at 3,000 and warned that the nation could be spiraling towards civil war.
Unlike rebels in Libya, dissidents in Syria have generally not called for Western-led airstrikes on their government. Some have backed some more limited action, such as the introduction of civilian observers.
Still, there is a school of thought that an impasse has been reached seven months into the protest movement and some kind of foreign intervention may be the only way to force Assad out. But the topic is an extremely divisive one, even among the anti-Assad faction.
The Syrian government regularly rails against what it calls a “foreign agenda,” an apparent reference to Washington, a long-time adversary, and its allies in the region. Assad has reportedly pledged to aim hundreds of rockets and missiles at neighboring Israel if his nation is attacked.
Many observers believe that a Libya-style North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led air assault on Syria is extremely unlikely. This month, Russia and China vetoed a United Nations resolution condemning Assad’s crackdown on protesters. The two superpowers feared the resolution could be used as a pretext for an attack on their Syrian ally.
-- Patrick J. McDonnell
Photo: Sen. John McCain addresses the second day of the World Economic Forum meeting by the Dead Sea in Jordan on Sunday. Credit: Khalil Mazraawi / AFP/Getty Images