Statements from Western leaders on Syria have grown harsh, if not menacing, as criticisms of the Bashar Assad government are unleashed and regime change becomes a common theme.
The fury and thirst for blood can be heard around the world as Washington and Brussels make their views known on how the conflict in Syria should be resolved. The noose began tightening around Damascus after reports emerged in the previous week that several foreign journalists were killed and injured in a siege of the rebel stronghold Homs. And now, Western officials are taking advantage of the incident as an excuse for openly calling for the removal of Assad and his government. The new labels for the country’s president and his regime are growing creative in their severity.
Responsibility for the “medieval barbarity” in Syria lies solely with the country’s leadership, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said at the end of an EU summit in Brussels.
“We will make sure … that there is a day of reckoning for those who are responsible. I have a clear message for those in authority in Syria: make a choice, turn your back on this criminal regime or face justice for the blood that is on your hands,” he said.
Britain is now demanding that Assad face a war crimes tribunal for what Cameron describes as “butchering his own people.”
“It is very important that we set out the war crimes that effectively are being committed, that we write them down, we take the photographic evidence, we bring it together and … make sure that the day of reckoning will come,” he said.
London is withdrawing its entire diplomatic staff from the troubled country, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Thursday.
As the two French journalists Edith Bouvier and William Daniels, who were evacuated from the embattled city of Homs, arrived at an airport near Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy asserted that “dictators anywhere in the world should know that they will have to account for their crimes.”
“The crimes that they have committed will not go unpunished,” Sarkozy is quoted as saying by Al Arabiya.
He backed his rhetoric with the announcement that France is to close its embassy in Damascus.
The US is obviously not the country to avoid inflammatory comments on the issue. President Barack Obama stated in an interview with the Atlantic Monthly published on Friday that the Syrian president’s “days are numbered,” and said that the US was working to accelerate the transition to what it calls democracy for the country.
“It is our estimation that [Assad’s] days are numbered – it’s a matter not of if, but when,” Obama added.
“Now, can we accelerate that? We’re working with the world community to try to do that,” he said.
Obama did not hesitate to openly compare the situation in Syria to that in Libya some time ago, saying that the country is more sophisticated and more complicated than Libya – while regretting that “countries like Russia are blocking UN action.”
Regime change was the objective in two separate resolutions presented to the UN Security Council, both vetoed by Russia and China, who believe the international community cannot simply push out governments. Moscow and Beijing maintain that the Syrian people must decide what is to take place in their country, and support initiatives that would have both the government and the opposition agree to a ceasefire.
Obama noted that US is trying through the “Friends of the Syrian People” group to promote humanitarian relief to cities under attack from Syrian government forces.
“But they can also accelerate a transition to a peaceful and stable and representative Syrian government,” he added.
Earlier in the week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Congressional committee that Assad could be classified as a war criminal, while France suggested Assad be referred to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
Western leaders are classifying the Syrian conflict in more black-and-white terms every day, with Assad consistently on the dark side. But while Brussels and Washington condemn the Assad government, eyewitnesses from Homs tell chilling stories of atrocities committed by opposition fighters, who kidnap and kill anyone they choose.
The Free Syrian Army blocked passage to Red Cross and Red Crescent ambulances, delaying evacuation from humanitarian disaster areas like the one in Baba Amr, a district of Homs. Further, on several instances when aid did reach its destination, there was no guarantee the people, who needed it, would receive it.
Thus, on Tuesday, a Russian helicopter flew into a neutral area to pick up Edith Bouvier, a French journalist wounded in the shelling of Homs on February 22. She was meant to be transported to France or Lebanon, but failed to appear, said Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday.
“She was in the area controlled by the rebels. They could carry her out to the helicopter. But she never came. Or were the rebels holding her?” added Putin.
Nothing changed after two attempts by Red Crescent ambulances.
Bouvier and another injured reporter, William Daniels, finally reached Paris on Friday night. But as far as the official powers are concerned, there was no reason for the wounded journalists to spend so much time in the devastated city.
As the recent death toll in Syria's year-long uprising has leapt over 7,500 people, a growing number of voices are saying the atrocities carried out by the opposition can no longer be ignored.
“There is a growing recognition that some of the fundamentalist Islamic groups, who probably make up about 30 per cent of the armed insurgents, are guilty of as much brutality as the Syrian army,” Aisling Byrne, a project coordinator at the Conflicts Forum, told RT. “It is a guerrilla war. This is not a fight for democracy, but a fight to introduce a hardline Sunni regime.”
Watch RT’s interview with Aisling Byrne