After the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad,
warned last month that "time is running out on
Damascus," U.S. officials even debated launching
military strikes inside the Syrian border against the
insurgency. But at an Oct. 1 "principals" meeting,
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice successfully
opposed such a move, according to two U.S. government
sources who are not authorized to speak on the record.
Rice argued that diplomatic isolation is working
against al-Assad, especially on the eve of a U.N.
report that may blame Syria for the murder of Lebanese
politician Rafik Hariri.
The goal seems to be to "get [the regime] by the
throat, and then really squeeze," says Josh Landis, a
Fulbright scholar in Damascus who runs an influential
blog called syriacomment.com. Maybe it's working:
diplomats in Damascus say they've seen signs in recent
months that al-Assad is trying to police Syria's
southern border better.