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Profiles in spinelessness

The Guardian reports:

Prospects for a new source of pressure on the Syrian leader looked slim after talks in Moscow between Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, and Sergei Lavrov, his Russian counterpart.

British officials said Hague had told Lavrov flatly that there were no plans for Libyan-style Nato military intervention and no secret western agenda for Syria.

Why did Hague think it necessary to tell this to Lavrov– flatly or otherwise?

Lavrov insisted that the Assad regime and the armed opposition were to blame for the deaths in Houla and Hama. “We are dealing with a situation in which both sides evidently had a hand in the deaths of innocent citizens,” he said. He called for a thorough investigation into the killings, saying “guilt must be decided objectively”.

Russia supported a non-binding UN security council statement on Sunday night condemning the Syrian government’s shelling of Houla, but it has put serious effort into spreading its message that the blame does not lie with Assad’s regime alone.

It has supported the Syrian government’s position that outside forces such as al-Qaida are behind the violence. Russia continues to supply arms to Assad, the Kremlin’s main ally in the Middle East.

Lavrov did, however, appear to take some steps to distance the Kremlin from Assad. “For us, it’s not most important who is in power in Syria. We must secure an end to the violence, an end to the death, and start a political dialogue in which Syrians can decide the fate of their own country.”

He accused outside actors of “playing a dishonest game” by espousing calls for peace while working towards their true goal of removing Assad from power. “We need to choose – if the priority is to stop the violence, as everyone says, then we need to pressure the regime and the opposition and get them to stop shooting at each other and sit down at the negotiating table,” Lavrov said. “We pressure the Syrian government – almost daily.

“It takes two to dance, though this seems less like a tango and more like a disco where several dozens are taking part. We must all act in unison.”

Is it revealing that when Lavrov looks for a way to describe the situation in Syria, the first thing that comes to his mind is disco dancing?

Hague warned that the alternatives to the Annan plan were “ever-increasing chaos in Syria” and the descent into “all-out civil war and collapse”.

That’s it, Mr. Secretary? You can’t think of any other alternatives to the Annan plan– which so far has been somewhat more useless than doing nothing at all, in that it creates the illusion of something being done?

At The New Republic, Leon Wieseltier (writing before the Houla massacre) responds to the Obama administration’s excuses for limited action and delay on Syria.