Situation in Syria poses challenges: Experts

Smoke rises in the city of Latakia August 14, 2011. Syrian tanks and navy ships shelled the main...

Smoke rises in the city of Latakia August 14, 2011. Syrian tanks and navy ships shelled the main Mediterranean port city of Latakia on Sunday, residents and rights groups said, killing 24 people. REUTERS/Handout

Kristy Kirkup, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 5:11 AM ET

OTTAWA - International pressure against the Syrian government's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters is mounting, but a former Canadian ambassador says it will be difficult to bring down the country's "nasty" regime.

Activists say 19 people were killed by government forces Sunday after Syrian gunboats pounded the city of Latakia. About 2,000 have been killed in five months of bloodshed.

Canada expanded its existing sanctions against the Middle East nation over the weekend, but international experts say the move is largely symbolic and "toothless."

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced the government will freeze assets of entities and individuals linked to the Syrian government. Canada has also placed a ban on exports of items like arms and munitions.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there has been a "crescendo of condemnation" against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

Clinton has called for a global embargo on oil and gas from Syria, and is urging the international community to "get on the right side of history."

Louis Delvoie, a former ambassador to Pakistan and a Queen's University professor, said the situation in Syria is complicated and it is unlikely government forces will let up.

"It's not an army which is hoping to hold on to its influence separate from the Assad regime. It's an army that's an integral part of the regime," he said. "They still hold most of the cards."

Delvoie says the United Nations Security Council will likely move towards a total condemnation of the Syrian government's regime as the situation progresses. So far, a UN chairman has issued a statement denouncing the violence, but Delvoie said this has far less impact than a resolution.

Delvoie maintains it is unlikely that the UN will move towards military action against Syria - which has held a long historical relationship with the former Soviet Union and now Russia.

"It will be a frosty Friday before the Russians at the Security Council agree to military action against Syria - a very frosty Friday," Delvoie said.

Analysts claim Syria also has a friend in Iran, which could react strongly to any military intervention in Syria.

Kristy.Kirkup@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @kkirkup


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