The situation is worsening in Syria, as more protesters are being killed. Now, the regime has gone so far as to turn tanks on demonstrators. Yet the international community has little recourse, says DW's Rainer Sollich.
Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria is fighting for survival - and leaving a bloody trail in its wake. Soldiers have attacked protesting citizens, and demonstrators have been brutally mowed down. Meanwhile, reforms that were recently announced amid massive pressure, such as the lifting of the half-century old "state of emergency," have proven purely cosmetic.
Under duress, the regime has shown its true face: It will step over the bodies of its own people if that's what it takes to remain in power.
At this point, further escalation seems unavoidable. But what is yet unclear is what will come out of the Syrian power struggle in the end. No one knows for sure what is going on in the backrooms of power. Does President al-Assad hold the reins of power in his hands alone? Or are there others giving the orders - perhaps the the secret service? The military? The ruling Baath party? Or members of al-Assad's own family clan?
DW's Rainer Sollich
Only one thing is sure: They all stand to lose, should there be a change in power. So they are using scare tactics, and have even gone so far as to create chaos, to serve their ends. They set snipers to shoot at citizens, then then lay the blame on Islamists or foreign agents. They refuse to allow independent media to enter the country. And in their own media, they blatantly fan the flames of the public's fear of religious wars.
And now, further massacres appear to be on the horizon. As in the Hama massacre of 1982, when the regime brutally slaughtered those involved in an uprising led by Sunni Muslims and the Muslim Brotherhood, the regime seems to have no qualms about using extreme violence against its own people.
Even those who have stood behind the Syrian president can now see that his regime has lost all legitimacy - the increasingly brutal actions of the security forces have made that clear. Signs of disengagement are starting to emerge, and they show that - even in Syria - the calls for freedom and democracy won't be cut off by violence.
A helpless international community
The road to these goals will be long and bloody, however. And it might take a civil war stoked by the regime or a putsch from somewhere within the power apparatus to get there.
The international community should not stand by quietly and merely observe the events in Syria. But in fact, the means at their disposal are limited. Given the as-yet unsuccessful military operation in Libya, the powers-that-be in Syria have little fear of a concerted international action in their own country. And to date, sanctions haven't had a meaningful effect on the regime either.
Rainer Sollich is the head of DW's Arabic Service. (jen)
Editor: Rob Mudge