In early October, the West was setting the stage for putting great pressure on Mr. Assad. On Oct. 2, in Istanbul, Turkey, the Syrian National Council (SNC) debuted as the international opposition to Assad's regime. The council includes Muslim Brotherhood figures, secular advocates, academics, and pro-US and pro-Turkey figures. Europe and the US back the SNC. Its launch in Turkey – which shares a border with Syria – with the blessing of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was significant.
In New York, meanwhile, European UN envoys worked overtime on a resolution against the Assad regime's behavior. A mild final version didn't contain the word "sanctions," but it did call for access for aid groups, the exercise of "fundamental freedoms," a peaceful political outcome, and other standard earmarks of what could be called civil society norms.
In Europe, the resolution was seen as both supporting the narrative of the Arab uprisings and standing up for deeply held European values. As a joint communiqué by France, Portugal, Germany, and Britain stated later, the resolution "contained nothing that any member of this Council should have felt the need to oppose...."