US expels Syrian envoy: a clear message whose impact is dubious
Joining with its Western allies, the US ordered Syria's top diplomat in Washington to leave the country to protest a massacre of civilians that included executions.
The United States joined other Western nations Tuesday in ordering the expulsion of Syrian ambassadors and diplomats in response to a brutal mass execution of more than 100 people in Houla, Syria, over the weekend. But analysts voiced skepticism that the move would spur change from the Syrian regime.
There was little debate about the savagery of the attack. A United Nations report found that fewer than 20 of the deaths could be attributed to tank and artillery fire. According to local witnesses and survivors who were interviewed by investigators, most of the other victims â€śwere summarily executedâ€ť by a pro-government paramilitary group, saidÂ Rupert Colville, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
But what, precisely, will be the impact of the expulsions?
â€śIt certainly has a certain symbolism to it,â€ť says Aram Nerguizian, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. â€śItâ€™s a clear messageâ€ť to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Beyond that, however, â€śItâ€™s more an exercise in going through the motions,â€ť Mr. Nerguizian argues. â€śThe Syrian ambassador has not been in the United States for quite some time, and expelling the charges dâ€™affaires doesnâ€™t have the same effect.â€ť The Syrian ambassador took another post in 2011 and has never been replaced.
Indeed, though the message is â€śloud and clear,â€ť there are unlikely to be additional policy steps that will encourage Mr. Assad to halt the violence, he adds. While there will be continued pressure from the United States and others, as well as calls to support opposition forces, for the time being there is little appetite for further action among cash-strapped countries with little political capital to expend on further wars or incursions.
Still, leaders throughout the Western world said that they would push for tougher sanctions against Syria following the killings in the series of farming villages that make up Houla.
Other nations add they would not engage with Syria until it agrees to abide by a UN cease-fire plan.Â
State Department spokeswoman Nuland, for her, part emphasizes that the US holds the Syrian government â€śresponsible for this slaughter of innocent lives.â€ť