| 6.1°C Dublin

Assad plumbs fresh depths

Just when it seemed as if the Syrian crisis could not get any worse it does. Reports that the Assad regime is now using children as "human shields", forcing them to ride on the outside of tanks and other military vehicles in order to deter rebel attacks, shows that the Syrian government has now plumbed fresh depths of depravity.

Almost 18 months after unrest first erupted in Syria it is clear that the country is now poised on the brink of a sectarian civil war. Indeed it may already have passed the point of no return. Unfortunately, unlike Libya, there seems to be no relatively easy way of ousting President Assad. So long as he retains the loyalty of the vast bulk of the Syrian security forces and is not deserted by his Russian, Chinese and Iranian allies, he seems relatively secure.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are providing assistance to their Sunni co-religionists in Syria. While this assistance may serve to hasten the eventual downfall of the Assad regime, will its replacement be a hardline Islamist administration rather than a government which represents all of Syria's many ethnic and religious groups?