Moscow will do all in its power short of war to keep its Mediterranean naval installation at Tartus, Syria, in "friendly" hands. Tehran, striving for regional hegemony while it builds nuclear weapons, must have an ally in Damascus to keep open its supply lines for arms and materiel to Hezbollah -- Iran's proxy for what it repeatedly describes as a coming "fire that will destroy the Zionist regime."
When asked about a U.N. resolution for military action -- like the support given rebels in their effort to oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi -- Clinton said, "Every day that goes by makes the argument for it stronger." She knows better. The Russians and the Chinese would veto such action in the U.N. Security Council before it could be written.
That doesn't mean we don't have options. To succeed, opponents of the regime in Damascus will have to be armed, trained and equipped. The Free Syrian Army -- a rebel group composed primarily of Syrian military defectors -- is headquartered in Turkey. The FSA could not be there without quiet approval from the government in Ankara. Next door in Baghdad, there is deep concern about the flood of Syrians seeking refuge in northwestern Iraq. It is in the interests of both the Erdogan and al-Maliki governments -- and our own -- that the outcome in Syria be favorable, be friendly and respect human rights.
Seeing as our human intelligence about what's happening on the ground inside Syria is so incredibly deficient, we don't know which rebel groups are the "good guys" and which ones might be radical Islamists. Our friends -- and we do have them in Turkey and Iraq -- do know, or they could find out.
With the death toll rising daily in Syria, it's long past time to stop the bluff and bluster about "pushing" the Russians or hoping more toothless U.N. sanctions will somehow work. What we and the long-suffering people of Syria need right now is some quiet diplomacy with our friends -- and prayers that whatever we do won't leak.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.