The Australian: West Needs Reality Check On Syria, by Tom Gross
In defending Assad, Clinton has put herself in the same camp as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who last week called Assad his "brother" and a humanist. Chavez has also come to the defence of Gaddafi. The media have hardly been any better. On CNN last week, I heard Assad being described as "attractive". And in a radio panel discussion on the BBC World Service, all three participants suggested Assad wasn't that bad. February's Vogue profile about Assad's wife was titled "Asma al-Assad: a Rose in the Desert". Previously, the Huffington Post ran a spread on "Our favourite Asma looks".Of course, praising the Syrian dictator and his family is nothing new. Three years ago, at a lunch I attended in London, William Hague, who is now Britain's Foreign Secretary, went out of his way to praise Assad. A year earlier, Hague criticised Israel for using "disproportionate force" as rockets were raining down on Israel from Lebanon. But in the past month I haven't heard Hague say much about "disproportionate force" in Syria.
Indeed, this might be a good time for the British government to acknowledge Israeli restraint. In recent weeks, Israel has been the victim of a series of terror attacks, including bombings, stabbings and dozens of rockets fired at towns and villages around southern Israel. In the face of this onslaught, the Israeli government has shown considerable restraint, keen to avoid damaging peace prospects. Perhaps it is time for the British and other governments to show Israel a measure of sympathy, rather than stick up for the Syrian regime.
Were the Assad regime to be replaced by a more responsible one, this would be a big gain for the West, for many ordinary Syrians and for the Arab world. Syria is the Iranian regime's most important Arab ally. It has been a key force in destabilising neighbouring Lebanon, as well as promoting the Hamas regime in power in Gaza. And, unlike Libya of recent years, Syria has been actively working against Western interests. So why the reluctance to unambiguously denounce Assad by Western leaders? It's time we had an answer.
Tom Gross is the former Middle East correspondent for London's The Sunday Telegraph