“A United Nations Security Council effort to end the violence in Syria collapsed in acrimony with a double veto by Russia and China on Saturday, hours after the Syrian military attacked the city of Homs in what opposition leaders described as the deadliest government assault in the nearly 11-month uprising.

“The veto and the mounting violence underlined the dynamics shaping what is proving to be the Arab world’s bloodiest revolt: diplomatic stalemate and failure as Syria plunges deeper into what many are already calling a civil war. Diplomats have lamented their lack of options in pressuring the Syrian government, and even some Syrian dissidents worry about what the growing confrontation will mean for a country reeling from bloodshed and hardship.

“The veto is almost sure to embolden the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which brazenly carried out the assault on Homs on the very day that the Security Council had planned to vote…

“‘It’s a real massacre in every sense of the word,’ said a resident in Khaldiya, who gave his name as Abu Jihad. ‘I saw bodies of women and children lying on roads beheaded. It’s horrible and inhuman. It was a long night helping people get to hospitals.’…

“‘The army has weapons, and the people have weapons,’ one opposition activist said on condition of anonymity, recounting Saturday’s bloodshed. ‘Syria is finished for me. It is a civil war, and nothing will save us anymore.'”

“Thirty years after his father massacred tens of thousands of innocent Syrian men, women, and children in Hama, Bashar al-Assad has demonstrated a similar disdain for human life and dignity. Yesterday the Syrian government murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children, in Homs through shelling and other indiscriminate violence, and Syrian forces continue to prevent hundreds of injured civilians from seeking medical help. These brutal killings take place at a time when so many Syrians are also marking a deeply meaningful day for their faith. I strongly condemn the Syrian government’s unspeakable assault against the people of Homs and I offer my deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones. Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now. He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately

“The international community must work to protect the Syrian people from this abhorrent brutality.”

“This is strong language, says CBS News Washington bureau chief Chris Isham, instructing President Assad that he ‘must’ stop killing his own people and that he ‘must’ step down.

“But what is unclear is: ‘Or what?’

“‘What will the U.S. will do if Assad does not (as he most certainly won’t) comply?” said Isham. ‘Assad has shown that he will resort to any means necessary to stay in power.’

“With the U.S. having ruled out military intervention, and the U.N. Security Council failing to approve a resolution seeking Assad’s ouster, the enforcement mechanism – beyond sanctions – is now up in the air.”

“Clinton warned that more violence would be in the offing if the security council was not able to act immediately.

“‘The endgame, in the absence of us acting together as the international community, is civil war,’ she said. ‘The potential endgames, if we are serious about putting this kind of international pressure on the Assad regime, making it clear to the opposition that they should pursue their changes in a peaceful manner, is the possibility of the beginning of a transition.’…

“Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov complained about the lack of a clear post-resolution strategy for Syria in his remarks in Munich Saturday morning. He said clearly that without further changes to the resolution, Russia would use its veto power.

“‘We asked the Americans and the Europeans, ‘What is the game plan?’ They say, ‘Well, in 15 days we’ll consider this issue again in the security council.’ My question is, ‘After that, what are you going to propose?’ Lavrov said. ‘It’s not a serious policy.'”

“It’s not just the Sunni Arabs lining up against Assad. Turkey, after a recent flirtation with a Syrian-Iranian-Turkish entente, has turned firmly against Assad, seeing an opportunity to extend its influence, as in Ottoman days, as protector/master of the Sunni Arabs. The alignment of forces suggests a unique opportunity for the West to help finish the job.

“How? First, a total boycott of Syria, beyond just oil and including a full arms embargo. Second, a flood of aid to the resistance (through Turkey, which harbors both rebel militias and the political opposition, or directly and clandestinely into Syria). Third, a Security Council resolution calling for the removal of the Assad regime. Russia, Assad’s last major outside ally, should be forced to either accede or incur the wrath of the Arab states with a veto.

“Force the issue. Draw bright lines. Make clear American solidarity with the Arab League against a hegemonic Iran and its tottering Syrian client. In diplomacy, one often has to choose between human rights and strategic advantage. This is a rare case where we can advance both — so long as we do not compromise with Russia or relent until Assad falls.”

“Once again, the courageous people of Syria can clearly see who on this Council supports their yearning for liberty and universal rights-and who does not. And during this season of change, the people of the Middle East can now see clearly which nations have chosen to ignore their calls for democracy and instead prop up desperate dictators. Those who opposed this resolution have denied this last chance to end Asad’s brutality through peaceful means under Arab League auspices. Any further blood that flows will be on their hands.”