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David Ignatius: The way to bring down Assad

BY DAVID IGNATIUS Published: February 28, 2012

A more worrying problem is Russia, which is providing money for Assad's regime as well as diplomatic cover. U.S. officials hope that when the European Union bans dealings with the Syrian Central Bank this week, that will make it harder for Russia to channel aid. Certainly more sanctions will help, but not if Russia is determined to keep Assad afloat.

A specific message

Second, the issue of sectarian tension: Assad survives in part because Alawites and Christians fear that a bloodbath of reprisal killings would follow his ouster. The U.S. and its key regional allies, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, need to address this issue directly. The message should be that Assad's days are indeed numbered, and minorities should join Sunnis in the movement for democratic change — with the assurance that, as they do so, they will be protected by international guarantees.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which has emerged as the strongest voice in the Arab Spring, would win new friends if it could join Turkey in sponsoring a dialogue that gathers Syria's Alawite clan leaders, Christian patriarchs and Muslim democrats.

The world has been inspired by the courage of the Syrian people, and of journalists such as Marie Colvin of the London Sunday Times and Anthony Shadid of The New York Times who died while reporting the resistance to Assad's tanks and artillery. But precisely because so many lives are at risk, the U.S. and its allies should craft a process that brings democratic change, not mayhem.