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Assad's actions in Syria spur US to consider intervening

The ongoing violence in Syria, despite the regime's lip service to the Annan peace plan, has pushed the Obama administration to weigh stronger steps.

By Correspondent / April 23, 2012

This image made from video made available by Syrian TV shows United Nations observers during a visit to Homs, Syria, Saturday, April 21, 2012. Five U.N. truce monitors ventured Saturday into the heart of the Syrian uprising, one of the hardest-hit opposition strongholds, and were thronged by residents clamoring for foreign military help to oust President Bashar Assad.

Syria TV via AP video/AP

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Beirut, Lebanon

The European Union slapped new sanctions on the Syrian regime on Monday, a gesture of further international pressure on President Bashar al-Assad amid widespread pessimism over UN envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan.

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The United Nations Security Council on Saturday authorized the deployment of up to 300 unarmed military observers to monitor a tenuous cease-fire in Syria that formally came into effect on April 12 as part of the Annan plan. But violence has continued since then and US officials have hinted that a failure by the Assad regime to honor the six-point Annan plan could lead to UN sanctions being imposed even before the expiry of a 90-day deadline for its implementation.

Yet given international divisions over how to address the crisis in Syria, as well as doubts about the viability of the Annan plan, the question remains: If the peace plan founders, what’s next?

“No one here [in Washington] thinks the Annan plan is going to work,” says Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert with The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “This plan does not deal with the disease itself. The disease is very simple. You have a minority-dominated regime that is not about to give up power, that has a 42-year record of not being able to reform, ruling over an opposition carved out of one of the youngest populations in the Middle East outside the Palestinian territories. It’s just a storm.”

The Obama administration, increasingly convinced that the situation is likely to deteriorate – with potentially dire consequences for regional security – is steering toward a more assertive action on Syria. That shift could encourage other countries who have been awaiting a US lead to play a more direct role in supporting the Syrian opposition.

Details of the Annan plan

Annan’s plan includes calls for a cease-fire from both sides, the delivery of humanitarian aid, a Syrian-led process to address opposition demands, the release of political detainees, allowing foreign reporters into the country, and permitting peaceful demonstrations.

Although the Syrian regime accepted the Annan plan, the violence has persisted, albeit at a lower rate from before. The UN says more than 9,000 people have died in Syria since the uprising began in March 2011.

The Syrian National Council, the main opposition body, welcomed the UN observer mission, saying that more monitors must be deployed so that “their presence allows the civilian population to reassert its right to peaceful demonstration.”

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