Saturday, December 16, 2017
Editorials

West must keep up pressure on Assad and Russia

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton deployed the breadth of diplomatic niceties this week in describing the United Nations' condemnation of Syria as a "positive step" toward ending the worsening civil war. Only hours after the Security Council called for a cease-fire and peace talks, Syrian President Bashar Assad's government forces unleashed a new round of shelling, killing dozens and bringing the death toll in the year-old conflict to some 8,000 people. The world community needs to remain focused on the crisis and keep pushing Assad and his enablers in Russia to stop further turmoil in a chaotic region.

The "presidential statement" by the Security Council was more a nod than a step in the right direction. The Security Council adopted a similar statement last August, calling for a cease-fire and humanitarian aid, and for the Syrian government to follow through on its pledge to political reform. Wednesday's statement went further by embracing a six-part framework for beginning talks on a political transition. But that looks like political cover to one of the United Nations' own, the former secretary general, Kofi Annan, who authored the U.N. proposal. Assad, after all, already rejected a similar peace plan by the Arab League. Presidential statements, anyway, lack the legal force of a U.N. resolution. And Russia, which along with China vetoed stronger U.N. sanctions against Syria, still managed to water down the latest Security Council declaration, reaffirming that the killings in Syria were a matter of "territorial integrity." If Assad wants to murder his people, in other words, that's his business.

The resolution buys Assad time to further pummel rebel forces, disrupt the opposition and gain some popular standing by painting the uprising as the work of terrorists and Western-inspired front groups. A report this week by the international watchdog Human Rights Watch that Syrian opposition forces have carried out serious abuses, from execution and torture to kidnapping, plays into the dictatorship's hand. The West is right to refrain from taking on a direct military role, as in Libya. But it certainly should condition its moral support for the rebels' adhering to accepted standards of treatment for combatants and noncombatants alike.

The U.N. measure adds to the drumbeat for isolating Syria, but the road for peaceful regime change in Damascus runs through Moscow. To an extent, Russia's sharper tone is more a reflection of the calendar; now that Vladimir Putin has moved beyond his campaign and won a return to the presidency, he can afford to hedge his bets in Syria without appearing weak. Russia will use its meetings with Annan and Syrian rebel groups to test whether Moscow can retain its influence with a post-Assad government. The West needs to keep pressing both Assad and Russia to move toward a deal that avoids a wider war and the predictable fallout.

Comments

Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17