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Syria approves new Constitution as dozens murdered in Homs

The mounting death toll in Homs and other Syrian cities is far more important than a referendum the Syrian government says showed overwhelmingly public support for a new constitution.

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Though Assad's forces briefly held up on their assault yesterday, allowing the Red Crescent and Red Cross to evacuate about 30 wounded women and children, any hopes for an extended break in the attacks there were dashed today. Syrian activists allege at least 125 people have been killed across Syria today, with 68 of the dead killed in Homs. The Local Coordinating Committees, a loose network of anti-Assad activists inside the country, alleged that dozens of civilians were killed at a checkpoint as they tried to flee the city, though that has not yet been independently confirmed.

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Syrian society has now become so polarized, that whatever slim chance a constitutional change would have ever had to shore up Assad's rule has evaporated. The Internet has been filled with horrific videos and photographs of dead and dying civilians and the emotions of the situation – and fears of what Assad would do with his opponents if he were to win a decisive victory – are now a guarantee of ongoing conflict.

The Syrian regime has adopted the accusatory stance of Egypt under Mubarak, Tunisia under Ben Ali, and Libya under Qaddafi last year: That the extent of the uprising and the death toll is the fault of "meddling" outside powers, not of its own mistakes. That was a position Syria reiterated today, even as international human rights groups said the death toll from months of violence is now over 8,000.

The calls from liberal interventionists to arm Syria's rebels, or perhaps for the US and other Western powers to intervene directly, are mounting, though it's hard to see a major international effort against Assad anytime soon. Syria is not Libya.

The country has deep sectarian divisions (Assad's regime draws much of its strength from the minority Alawite sect he belongs to), is in a geopolitically complicated region (Syria shares a border with both Israel and with Iraq, a country whose own sectarian war deposited tens of thousands of refugees inside its borders) and has powerful friends in Russia, China, and Iran.

It's hard to see a fast improvement in the situation. The one thing that's certain is that a new Constitution is not going to be relevant to the ultimate resolution of the country's conflict.

Follow Dan Murphy on Twitter.

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