With reports of more slaughter by Syrian forces of peaceful protesters Tuesday, it's become clear that the United States and other nations must vigorously oppose these massacres and those who order them.

It's more difficult for the United States to lobby Syria than, say, Egypt or Tunisia, because presidential dictator Bashar al-Assad, like the father he succeeded, uses bad relations with the West to gain popularity and credibility with his people. Syria is a linchpin for anti-American factions, most notably Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The nation is also fragmented culturally, and for the past 40 years many have viewed the dictatorship as more stable than what would likely follow revolution.

Because of that stability, and because the al-Assads have opposed Islamic fundamentalists, Western governments are entranced with the idea of stronger relations with Syria. Such efforts haven't borne much fruit because of the tactics of the Syrian government, which have included the slaughter of thousands of its own people, the destabilization of Lebanon, and the demonization of Israel and the United States. Now, peacefully protesting citizens are being met with official massacres, foreign journalists are barred, and the government is trying to censor and deny access to the Internet.

Syria's leadership must understand these brutal acts won't go unnoticed -- or, in terms of diplomacy and economic sanctions, unpunished -- if they continue. That's all we can do right now, and that's what we should do.

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