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U.N. Suspends Syria Mission, Citing Increase in Violence

The United Nations said the monitors would not be withdrawn from Syria, but rather were being locked down in Syria’s most contested cities, unable to conduct patrols. While the decision to suspend their work was made chiefly to protect the unarmed monitors, the unstated purpose appeared to be to force Russia to intervene and assure that the observers are not the targets of Syrian forces or their sympathizers. Russia has opposed Western intervention and, by some accounts, continues to arm the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

For President Obama, the suspension of the observers’ activities — unless it is reversed quickly — could signal the failure of the latest effort by the West to reach a diplomatic solution and ease Mr. Assad from power.

But Mr. Obama’s choices are no better than they were when the uprising in Syria began nearly a year and a half ago. A bombing campaign like the one conducted last year by NATO in Libya with strong American and Arab League support is not feasible in Syria: the battle is being waged in crowded cities, with little chance to attack the Syrian Army without the risk of high civilian casualties.

Mr. Obama, NATO nations and the Arab League have never wanted to send in a ground force, which would probably face heavy casualties in what many fear is emerging as a civil war.  

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