U.S. in Tough Diplomatic Spot with Syria

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Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime has killed more than 100 protesters this week, as anti-government riots continue for a fifth straight month.

The West is tightening sanctions on Assad but the quest for democracy in Syria could be long and deadly.

Funerals are now a rallying point for Assad's opponents, who brave the tanks in the streets of Hama, the flashpoint city for ongoing protests.

Human rights groups say Assad's army and security forces have now killed at least 1,700 civilians. Still, the protests are going strong, especially at night when the fast of Ramadan is broken.

When rallies began in March, demonstrators just wanted democratic reforms. Now, they want reforms and the ouster of Assad as president.

Meanwhile, U.S. leaders keep denouncing the Syrian president but refuse to call for regime change as they did in Egypt and Libya.

"There's no indication whatsoever that the Americans, that we would get involved directly with respect to this," said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"I think politically and diplomatically we want to bring as much pressure as we possibly can to affect the change that so many countries are calling for," he added.

But that pressure might not be enough to dislodge a family run dictatorship of more than 40 years.

Human rights activists, such as Jean-Marie Fardeau, president of Human Rights Watch, are concerned that Assad's close ties with the army could keep him in power for longer than supporters of democracy would like.

"So it could last a long time for the population to really succeed in overthrowing the regime and to get at the end the democracy and the rule of law they are expecting," Fardeau said.

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John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.