A stage for a lying murderer?

Burhan Ghalioun, head of the Syrian National Council (SNC), suggests “an international conference on Syria to stop the atrocities and the killings,”  in the likely event that the SNC plea for a “safe area” goes unheeded. I’d be the first to admit that the record of international conferences in stopping anything is mixed at best. Certainly the international conference on Yugoslavia in the 1990s was not 100% effective, though some of its spinoffs like the Badinter commission played an important role in clarifying the rules of the game.

I wonder whether this is an idea worth exploring, admittedly out of desperation.  So far, the Russians and Chinese have stymied the UN Security Council.  It is much harder for them to stymie an international conference, where there is no formal veto and a good deal of pressure to come up with a consensus statement.  The Iranians may even be tiring of what Bashar al Assad is costing them.  If the Syrian government refuses to attend, as well it might, that would enable the SNC to speak for the Syrian people.

The Americans would want to go to such a conference knowing exactly what they could hope for by way of results.  It seems to me a conference statement denouncing violence on all sides (yes I know that the regime is by far the bigger offender), endorsing the mission of the Arab League human rights monitors and noting the failure of the Syrian government to cooperate fully with them is not out of reach.  I don’t know that it would help much, but anything that undermines the legitimacy of the Assad regime is at this point useful.

Could a conference give Bashar al Assad a bully pulpit that would be useful to him in reaffirming his legitimacy on the world stage?  Yes, but that’s what we’ve got diplomats for:  to stage manage this so he comes off as the lying murderer he is.

Tomorrow is Friday.  Let’s hope the demonstrators turn out in numbers, building on last week’s extraordinary showing.  Here are Arab League monitors documenting violations by the Syrian Army near Deraa yesterday:

Or if you prefer, here is first-hand testimony of a former Defense Ministry official:

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