The Syrian city of Houla has become the latest to feel the might of the murderous Assad regime, with over one hundred of its citizens having been massacred on Friday and almost half of those victims being children.

As Bashar al Assad’s personal death toll climbs towards the 15,000 mark, it seems that, if the sheer weight of numbers does not tip the international community into taking stronger action, then the execution style killing of dozens of children may.  Before Houla, Bashar al Assad’s most recent middle finger salute to the world has been to completely ignore the Kofi Annan led ceasefire agreement.  Hundreds of civilians have been murdered since the plan allegedly began in April, which of course Assad has blamed on the ever scapegoated ‘terrorists’.  This follows dozens of killings during previous visits by the Arab League and UN monitors, a rapidly increasing refugee population and an ever growing air of Eric Cartman’s, ‘I’ll do what I want’ attitude displayed by Assad’s forces.

That scores of children were among those executed on the weekend reflects a transformation of Assad’s henchmen from brutal murderers of protestors to callous, cold blooded killers of children.  Houla is rightly being seen as a turning point.  With yet another day of death on Tuesday, 98 people killed across the country, just what sort of turning point Houla will be is still to unfold.

Some of the victims of the Houla massacre

Since the protests began in March 2011, Syrian forces have been able to act with an ever growing level of impunity, because of the protection (and arms) afforded to them from Russian, China and Iran and the reluctance of the West to act militarily.  Behind Assad the schoolyard bully stand the even mightier Russians, Chinese and Iranians, providing ample space and tacit support for the Syrian leader to conduct his work.  The Russians, headed by their own corrupt government, are Syria’s chief arms supplier and an end to the conflict would see a four billion dollar arms deal cease.  China, meanwhile continue to run with the standard line of ‘not meddling in the affairs of foreign countries’, unless of course those countries are Tibet or Burma or Taiwan or Sudan or Nigeria or… and Iran will take any chance they get to murder and repress innocent civilians, and blame it on Israel of course.

The West’s reaction to Houla has not been one of lining tanks up along Turkish border.  They have instead dismissed Syrian diplomats and publicly mused about the possibility of military intervention.  Strong words, accompanied by actions a baby step above symbolic.  Assad is well aware that any military action, if it is to ever come, is a long way off.  The Syrian opposition, although increasingly well armed and financed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is fractured and they must unite and organise if they are to become an attractive ally for NATO or the US.  As much as the US loves a war and even with the moral justification Assad is providing, they would not want to enter without a united, organised and prepared Syrian ally.  Syria’s neighbour Iraq, sits closely as an ominous reminder of how things can go horribly wrong.  Furthermore the Syrian army is still incredibly powerful, well armed and seemingly enjoying themselves.  They are unlikely to simply implode with any Western invasion.

Assad, like a true coward, will not act unless those supporting him tap him on the shoulder and tell him enough is enough.  Pressure must be increased on the Russians and Chinese to do that tapping.

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