The continued efforts by Russia to protect the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad and block efforts to encourage compliance with Kofi Annan’s peace plan will only prolong and extend the escalating bloodshed in Syria.

There is no serious prospect, or appetite, for outside military intervention in that country, beyond that admitted to by the Iranian regime in May (which, curiously, goes unremarked by those on the Left who see Western imperialist plots in everything to do with Syria). The remaining alternatives are the bloody and deeply divisive civil war that is unfolding, with fighting now in Damascus itself, or Annan’s attempt to broker a settlement in the context of a ceasefire, the only credible, internationally accepted strategy for halting the slaughter.

Russia’s attitude toward the Annan plan is bloodyminded obstinacy in refusing to countenance any Security Council measures that may strengthen the chances of the plan being taken seriously by the isolated Assad.

The result will be more casualties, more massacres as the regime panics and lashes out, and less chance of a durable post-conflict settlement being established once Assad is removed.