By Michel Chossudovsky and Finian Cunningham
Global Research, February 27, 2012
URL of this article: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=29524
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has acknowledged that Al Qaeda and other organizations on the US “terror list” are supporting the Syrian opposition.
Clinton said: “We have a very dangerous set of actors in the region, al-Qaida [sic], Hamas, and those who are on our terrorist list, to be sure, supporting – claiming to support the opposition [in Syria].”  (Click here to watch video)
Yet at the same time, in the above BBC interview the US Secretary of State repeats the threadbare Western claim that the situation in Syria is one of a defenceless population coming under “relentless attack” from Syrian government forces.
There is ample evidence that teams of snipers who have been killing civilians over the past year in Syria belong to the terrorist formations to which Clinton is referring to.
As Michel Chossudovsky points out in a recent article: “Since the middle of March 2011, Islamist armed groups – covertly supported by Western and Israeli intelligence – have conducted terrorist attacks directed against government buildings, including acts of arson. Amply documented, trained gunmen and snipers, including mercenaries, have targeted the police, armed forces as well as innocent civilians. There is ample evidence, as outlined in the Arab League Observer Mission report, that these armed groups of mercenaries are responsible for killing civilians. While the Syrian government and military bear a heavy burden of responsibility, it is important to underscore the fact that these terrorist acts – including the indiscriminate killing of men, women and children – are part of a US-NATO-Israeli initiative, which consists is supporting, training and financing ‘an armed entity’ operating inside Syria.” 
The admission at the weekend by Hillary Clinton corroborates the finding that armed groups are attacking civilians and these groups are terroristic, according to US own definitions, and that the situation in Syria is not one of unilateral state violence against its population but rather is one of a shadowy armed insurrection.
Clinton’s admission retrospectively justifies the stance taken by Russia and China, both of which vetoed the proposed UN Security Council Resolution on 4 February, precisely because that proposal was predicated on a spurious notion that the violence in Syria was solely the responsibility of the Al Assad government.
Clinton also acknowledges in the BBC interview that there is “a very strong opposition to foreign intervention from inside Syria, from outside Syria” – which tacitly concedes the fact that the Syrian population is aware that the so-called oppositionists within their country are Al Qaeda-affiliated mercenaries.
Meanwhile, the US Gulf allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have separately issued statements that they are willing to send arms to Syria to support the insurrection against the Damascus government. Given the still substantial popular support for the government of Bashir Al Assad, such a declaration by Saudi Arabia and Qatar towards a fellow Arab League member state signifies an unprecedented interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. Indeed, legal opinion could argue that it constitutes a self-indicting act of international aggression.
Besides, such a declaration by Saudi Arabia and Qatar of being willing to arm Syrian insurrectionists, can be seen as a cynical cover for what is already taking place. It is known that the Gulf monarchical states are already supplying weapons illicitly to the self-styled Syrian Free Army, along with Turkey and Israel.
So far, the US is officially maintaining the fiction that it is not involved in supplying arms to Syria even though Washington has demanded “regime change” and in spite of evidence that Western covert forces, including American, British and French operatives, are actively engaged with the opposition groups.
It is richly ironic that the unelected fundamentalist Sunni regimes of the Persian Gulf are supporting Al Qaeda affiliated groups within Syria purportedly to “bring about democratic reforms”. This is the same dynamic that prevailed in Libya where the overthrow of that country’s government by Western and Gulf Arab powers has now led to a collapse in human rights and social conditions.
Once again, Syria is indicating the same alignment of allies: Washington, London and other NATO powers comfortably in bed with Sunni/Salafist tyrants and terrorists, claiming to be supporting democratic freedom and human rights.
Of course, the real agenda has nothing to do with either democratic freedoms or human rights – as the awry alignment of allies clearly indicates. Rather, this is about Washington and its proxy powers trying to engineer regime change throughout the Arab World and beyond to conform to geopolitical objectives, principally the control of raw energy. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Syria are but a sequence of stops on a global roadmap of permanent war that also swings through Iran. Russia and China are the terminal targets.
Washington is evidently prepared to use any means necessary to assert this agenda: illegal wars, death on a massive scale, possibly triggering global war and the use of nuclear weapons. But surely the most preposterous mask is the “war on terror”, when it is seen – from the words of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – that Washington is now openly collaborating with the supposed “terrorist enemy” to bring about regime change in desired countries.
If somehow the weasel words from Washington could be taken at face value, then if it were serious about wanting regime change to facilitate democracy, human rights and world peace, the first regime that pre-eminently qualifies for such change is Washington itself.
 Transcript of Clinton interview on BBC, 26 February, 2012:
Monthly Archives: February 2012
Editor’s Note : Three informed analysts from two sources weigh in on a very complicated situation in Syria. Both Webster Tarpley… and Elaine Hagopian’s analysis is accurate… the Syrians are caught between a rock and a hard spot. And, the tide is ebbing rapidly!
The stakes are high. The entire region is affected.
Elaine Hagopian: Syrians are caught between horrors of Assad and sectarian forces with external support…
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington.
On Wednesday in Damascus, President Assad announced he’s going to call a referendum on February 26 for a new constitution for Syria. This follows earlier-in-the-week Arab League meetings that took place in Cairo, led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They essentially call for arming the opposition in Syria, and they are going to take a resolution that did not get through the Security Council (because of vetoes of Russia and China) to the General Assembly, calling for some kind of peacekeeping force. So where is all this leading? And what is the opposition in Syria made up of?
Now joining us to help us unpack a very complicated situation is Elaine Hogopian. Elaine is a Syrian-American sociologist. She’s professor emeritus of sociology at Simmons College in Boston. And she joins us from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Thanks for joining us, Elaine.
ELAINE HOGOPIAN, PROF. EMERITA OF SOCIOLOGY, SIMMONS COLLEGE: Thank you.
JAY: So let’s start with sort of the more geopolitical picture before we get into what’s happening inside Syria. What exactly does Syria and Qatar plan to achieve here? If they actually—if they already are arming opposition, which some people are suggesting, as—and they’re also suggesting some arms are coming from Turkey. But if they do it overtly and openly under an Arab League resolution, one would think that leads to kind of the situation we saw in Lebanon for years, like, a horribly long-term, violent civil war. What would be in—how could that be in the interest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar?
HOGOPIAN: Well, what they are thinking is that the world is looking at them to do something, and all they can think about is that they’ll arm the Free Syrian Army. And they’re actually hoping that in some way Turkey and/or the Free Syrian Army will have sufficient strength to set up a kind of Benghazi, and that, theoretically, more of the Syrian army will defect if there is a place to go to.
And I think the Arab League is at a dead end. After all, it’s filled with people (especially those who head it—Saudi Arabia and Qatar at this point, Qatar being the official [incompr.] right now) who themselves have ruled their countries as families for years and years, are corrupt, and don’t exactly have a lot of human rights in their own countries. So—and the other end of that is that Qatar and Saudi Arabia are so fixated on Iran, and their desire somehow to break this Syrian regime and to usher in something that would be more pro-Western, yet at the same time fit into a kind of Islamic mold that both of them are fostering.
JAY: I mean, the level of hypocrisy, especially on the part of Saudi Arabia, where they can send troops in to Bahrain to help suppress protest, suppress protest inside Saudi Arabia—. And if Iran ever sent arms to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia would be screaming blue murder. On the other hand, it’s fine for Saudi Arabia to do exactly the same thing in Syria.
HOGOPIAN: Exactly. And it might be said here that the Arab League, when they passed this, they haven’t said they’re actually going to send him arms. They have built-in options that they could arm if the violence continues and people need help and that they need to defend themself. So they’ve given themself a kind of out. At the same time, we know that arms are going in to the Free Syrian Army and they’re coming from all directions, whether it be from Lebanon, whether it be from parts of Iraq—not necessarily the Lebanese government or the Iraqi government, but coming in from various other groups. And Turkey, while it tries to play a dual role, we don’t know. It’s arming—. The U.S., after all, also has bases in that area and may in fact be helping in some form of training, though the U.S. stays in the background. And hopefully—they’re hoping that others, like Turkey and Jordan, will accommodate some of the goals that the U.S. has in the area.
JAY: So what do you make of the opposition, the Free Syrian Army? And who else is in the opposition? ‘Cause it seems to be very diverse and very splintered.
A woman’s face painted with the national Syrian flag, attends a rally in support of President Bashar al-Assad in central Damascus on February 15, 2012.AFP
HOGOPIAN: It is. And I think it’s important to recognize—and I’d like to emphasize this point—there has been in Syria, long before this protest, a whole group of people, a kind of movement, if you will, for reform and human rights in Syria. They, in the early days—let us just even start from 2000, when Bashar Assad came in. A group of 99 intellectuals signed a statement because they thought he was a reformer and he had opened up Syria a little bit, and they signed a statement calling for specific reforms, and they did not call for a change in the regime or for the Assad family to step down or anything of this sort.
Later—and it seems that Bashar’s brother Maher seemed to advise him that opening up Syria was a bad idea at this point, that it would bring in all kinds of people trying to get clients in the area. And so they clamped down.
Nonetheless, in 2001, a group of 1,000 Syrians issued a statement in which again they were calling for reforms. And then later, again, in 2005, there was another declaration and call, and they each time became more intense and more demanding. But nothing happened.
The “Arab Spring”—I use that word in quotes—comes along, and this sort of strengthened the people who want reform. And so there was this authentic nonviolent movement going out in the streets, and they were not calling for Bashar Assad to step down. I think that’s very important.
I think that the regime—and I would emphasize here that Bashar Assad himself is not the regime. He is the head of the regime, and we don’t really know how much power he has, although he is responsible and he seems to be going along with what is happening, and may even be fostering it. But I think he handles it very poorly in Daraa when this whole thing broke out.
JAY: Why were the reformists not calling for the end of the regime, or at least some kind of multiparty election process?
HOGOPIAN: At that point, of course, they wanted more plurality. They didn’t want a removal of the emergency laws [incompr.] But they were not asking for regime change or Assad to step down, mostly because the Assad regime, for all of its horrors—the father, of course, initiated many horrors. But for all of its horrors and the continuing human rights violations under Bashar and so forth, it brought stability to Syria.
You have to remember, before the father took over in 1971—actually, 1970, officially ’71—Syria had had 15 coups. It was almost a yearly event. Fifteen coups. And there was no stability. The economy was in shambles. He takes over, has what he called the Corrective Movement, and he in a sense insists on a secular society. And being an Alawi, of course, that’s [incompr.] as well. But he insisted on a secular society. And in a sense, by very strong authoritarian regime and a very strong security system that he built up and force, he forced the integration of the different provinces and sects of Syria, which had eluded them, as you know, under the French. The French had split the area into so many pieces. Within what they left of Syria it was split. And so he brought it together. There was this stability.
When Bashar came in, he looked like a reformer and people liked him.
JAY: So if this, what you’re saying, the sort of authentic reformist movement wasn’t at least at that time calling for Assad to step down or for a regime change and all, which I guess partly too would have been, in the circumstances, more provocative than what was achievable, what happened? I mean, early in all of—. Just one sec. Early in this, even Hillary Clinton was calling Assad a reformist. So where does this change and why?
HOGOPIAN: Well, I think that, number one, as I say, I think the regime didn’t play it well. They’re used to not having a challenge to the regime itself. And while Bashar seems to have wanted reform, announces reform, the question always comes up of how much power does he actually have and who was advising him. There is a [incompr.] and a whole series of security forces, his brother leading the most important security force, and all kinds of domestic intelligence—Mukhabarat, as they are called. And they just didn’t handle this well. And yet the people continued peaceful for a while.
I think external forces like Qatar, like Saudi Arabia, the U.S. in the background, Israel, for all of its protests that it really doesn’t want to see change in Syria because it will bring in Muslim Brothers, etc., also has certain interest in seeing regime change—and they have for a long time—that, you know, for all of this, the regime, as I say, didn’t play it well. The forces from outside, these external forces, saw an opportunity, and they began to send in some of their own people or to pay in return a number of [incompr.] Muslim Brothers who are vied for both by Turkey and by Saudi Arabia. The Saudis sent in Salafis, as they did in Egypt. The Qataris are also sending in their own people, although the Qataris are such a small nation; but they have lots of money where they can buy people.
And in this process, when you began to get a kind of tit-for-tat, the defectors are predominantly from the Idlib area. The Idlib area is where the Muslim Brothers are. And they fled into Syria, and they began, in a sense, this more militant group. And these external forces sort of overran the authentic protesters and absorbed them in some way, and both the regime and these other externally paid people began to play the sectarian game.
JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Elaine.
HOGOPIAN: Thank you. It was a pleasure.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
Editor’s Note: A functional State in Syria is a dangerous threat to Israeli plans for Lebanon and Hizbullah, and Syria must go.
An armed and stable Syria is a threat to any militant or belligerant plans which Israel might have for Lebanon or Hizbullah, therefore Syria must go.
Syria must be destroyed and neutralized as a player in ME militant diplomacy. This is in accord with Israeli strategic plans of balkanization of all neighboring Arab States in the Middle east and Africa.
If this means heads must roll then let the heads roll!
Think cui bono, and you will not have to dig much deeper for What? Who? and Why?
Moscow has accused the west of stirring up tensions in the Arab world by calling for the overthrow of the Syrian regime.
Russia says calls from certain states for the Syrian opposition to avoid dialogue with the government, are only provoking further violence.
Author and journalist Webster Tarpley, who’s in Damascus, says, it’s very simple, western powers are behind the violence in Syria.
He expounds on America’s ongoing lies and propaganda.
Editor’s Note: America and American policies have long been noted for their ability to alienate long term long time friends and especially former or potential strong and beneficial allies.
It seem to have been afflicted with some sort of political/diplomatic suicide syndrome.
Michael Scheuer a Historian, an author of “Through our enemies’ eyes”, who worked for the CIA for over 20 years till 2004 and at one time was the chief of the CIA’s ‘Bin Laden unit’, says:
“Washington’s enemy, is an enemy that does not exist – it didn’t exist when bin-Laden was alive and it doesn’t exist now. The US is attacked because of its Foreign Policies in the Middle East, its support for Israel and Saudi Arabia and its presence in the Arabian Peninsula”
“Israel itself as a country is not the problem. The real problem is the leaders of the American jewish community in the United States who influence and corrupt our congress to support Israel, when we have no interest there”
In Syria he says “We are interfereing unconscionably…”
Michael Scheuer is the author of two books: Through Our Enemies’ Eyes : Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America and Imperial Hubris : Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. He recently published Marching Toward Hell : America and Islam After Iraq .
URL of this article: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=29501
“The individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists.” (J.EdgarHoover, 1895-1972.)
Smelt any proverbial rats, lately? If not, you have not been paying attention, there are plenty about.
Consider for instance this: “Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now” and “must step aside …” Hilary Clinton (Asia Times, 9th February 2012.)
“I strongly condemn the Syrian government’s unspeakable assault … and I offer my deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones. Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now. He must step aside …” said President Barack Hussein Obama. (i)
Yet responsibility for US victims, in their hundreds of thousands, spanning Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, in Guantanamo, Bagram, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, are wholly unaccountable – and uncounted..
Responsibility for tyrannicide (including the horrific, state sponsored assassinations of Osama bin Laden and others, Libya’s Head of State, Colonel Quaddafi, have, seemingly entered a Presidential memory hole.)
“This (Syria’s) is a doomed regime as well as a murdering regime. There is no way it can get its credibility back either internationally or with its own people”, Britain’s little Foreign Secretary, William Hague, chimed in obediently, from the Washington script, on Sky News.
“Because the regime is so intransigent, because it is conducting ten months unmitigated violence and repression – more than 6,000 killed, with 12,000 or 14,000 in detention and subject to every kind of torture and abuse – it is driving some opponents to violent action themselves”, concluded Hague.
Hypocrisy reigns supreme. Walking distance from Hague’s office: “living in style and protection”, is Bashar Al Assad’s Uncle Rifaat, under whose Defence Brigades onslaught killed up to perhaps thirty thousand people in the city of Hama, which was also partially destroyed, Falluja style. The thirtieth anniversary of a truly terrible event is commemorated today, 25th February. (See Robert Fisk, Independent, 25th February 2012.)
Of Libya, in March 2011, Obama stated: “Going forward, we will continue to send a clear message: The violence must stop. Muammar Gaddafi has lost legitimacy to lead, and he must leave. Those who perpetrate violence against the Libyan people will be held accountable. And the aspirations of the Libyan people for freedom, democracy and dignity must be met.”(ii.)
An anomaly (apart from the script similarity): In Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, deaths resultant from US-UK and “allied” actions are: “impossible to verify”, by Washington and Whitehall.
Indeed, this month, the (UK) Parliamentary Select Committee on Defence, issued a Report, after an Inquiry in to operations in Libya, stating that: “Britain has no way of knowing how many civilians died in the Libyan conflict as a result of Nato bombing.” (iii)
Back in March 2011, however, the exact figure of Quaddafi’s victims was “known.” Coincidentally, it was also exactly 6,000, stated a “political analyst” – using remarkably State Department-similar phraseology.(iv)
As under Saddam Hussein in Iraq (with no diplomatic presence) in Libya and now little in Syria – with no point of contact bar, seemingly, a satellite dish fitter, in Coventry, England, alleged to be the “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” – exact death and casualty figures are always miraculously available.
A new nemesis appears on the horizon – or “Arab street”- and precise numbers are trumpeted. Yet when Western forces, “Viceroys”, “Intelligence” services, “mentors” and myriad, general meddlers, mercenaries and marauders pitch up, murder and occupy, none are available.
Of course no proposed invasion (sorry, “humanitarian intervention”) regime change and accompanying mass slayings would be complete without forces of a wicked tyrant switching off electricity to babies incubators.
For anyone who has forgotten the details, the (1990-1991) Iraq model went like this: vast US government employed PR agency, Hill and Knowlton (“we create value by shaping conversations: we start them, we amplify them, we change them. We can connect seamlessly with all of your audiences…”)produced a fifteen year old girl called “Nayirah”, a “Kuwaiti with first hand knowledge of … her tortured land.”
“I volunteered (tears) at the Al Addan Hospital .. I saw the Iraqi soldiers ..with guns, they took fifteen babies out of incubators, left them on the cold floor and took the incubators.”
Strangely, no one asked why she didn’t pick them up and wrap and tend to them, or checked who she really was.
She was the daughter of Saud al Sabar, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to US. The incubators story of course, was a complete fabrication.
October 10th 1990, Amnesty presented evidence against Iraq with Hill and Knowlton at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on Capitol Hill. Amnesty International trustingly endorsed the incubator story. Apparently never investigating who “Nayirah” was, and in a charged situation, whether propaganda might not be rampant.
“Amnesty US Executive Director, John Healey, compounded the incubator baby story in testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on 8th.January 1991. The carpet-bombing of Iraq began nine days later.”(v)
Amnesty, enjoined by Human Rights Watch, are amongst the most enthusiastic champions of Syrian intervention and onward to Armageddon. Glen Ford writes all you ever need to know.(vi)
The first Syria incubator baby story surfaced last August. “Syrian government troops”, had cut the electricity. It was quickly exposed as beyond questionable.(vii)
Another one came up on 8th February (viii) with numbers varying from eighteen poor mites, to a subsequent eighty. With both tales, as the Iraq version, no distraught parents, extended family, were found, no funeral gatherings, then the stories, too, quietly vanished.
Coincidentally, the current Speaker of the eighty eight Member Arab Inter-Parliamentary union, which backs intervention in Syria, is Kuwaiti, Ali Al-Salem Al-Dekbas, calling for all Syria’s Ambassadors to be expelled, confrontation with Russia over her stance – and in remarkable US-speak, for swift intervention, to stop the Syrian government “killing (their own) people.” (Reuters, 4th February 2012.)
The new Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, is Suzanne Nossel, formerly Hillary Clinton’s Deputy Assistant for International Organization Affairs, at the State Department. She has also previously worked for Human Rights Watch.
She: “… has launched several campaigns against Iran, Libya and Syria.”(viii)
The allegation that Kuwait gave Amnesty $500,000 for backing the Iraq incubator baby story has never gone away. But the little island, famously once called:”An oil company posing as a state”, with population just 2,595,628 (July 2011) which includes 1,291,354 non-nationals, also has powerful American-proxy clout.
In 1999, an agreement was signed between the USA and Kuwait for a permanent US force to be stationed there, in twelve facilities (there are a further eight “spares”, seemingly not currently in use.)
The agreement for the bases, incidentally, was named: “Operation Desert Spring.”(x)
Here is a further coincidence. In March 2010, Libya was voted, near unanimously, on to the UN Human Rights Committee, after a glowing Report on human rights progress. After a ferocious campaign by Geneva based UN Watch(xi) not only were they expelled from it, but nineteen months later, their country lay in ruins, their leader lynched and most of his family dead.
Last November, Syria was elected to the Committee and the fifty eight Member Arab board added their votes to the country’s place on UNESCO panels.
UN Watch railed that: “Western democracies, unanimously elected Syria to a pair of Committees – one dealing directly with human rights issues – even as the Bashar al-Assad regime maintains its campaign of violence against its own citizens.“ Syria’s Committee places, as Libya before it, died a death.
Amnesty’s Ms Nossel, unsurprisingly, has spoken at a number of events with UN Watch Director, Hillel Neuer, a Montreal born attorney, whose career has included serving as a judicial law clerk for Justice Itzhak Zamir, at the Supreme Court of Israel.
In March last year, there seemed a glimmer of hope that the US and “allies”, would back away from repeating the tragic disaster that was unfolding in Libya – and had already struck Afghanistan and Iraq.
Secretary of State Clinton committed on CBS (27th March 2011) that the US would not intervene in the way it had in Libya.
Now, it seems, a miracle is needed, as it emerges Saudi Arabia and Quatar are among those subsidizing insurgents with vast sums – as French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe announced that the EU is about to further tie the government’s hands, by freezing the assets of the Syrian Central Bank, from 27th February. Syria is already under a crippling raft of sanctions.(xii) France was, of course, one of the leading and most enthusiastic cheerleaders for the destruction of Libya.
At the same “Friends of Syria” Conference in Tunis (24th February 2012) UK Foreign Minister William Hague declared that the UK recognized the insurgents and Hilary “We came, we saw, he died” Clinton called Russia and China:”despicable”, for their veto at the UN, which may well have blocked further “intervention.”
The US said it will consider military assistance to the insurgents – a representative of them said they were already receiving “western aid.”
With “friends” like these, Syria certainly needs no enemies.
The US has, of course, “despicably”, vetoed thirty five UN peace Resolutions relating to the Middle East(xiii) including on“Operation Cast Lead”, the 2008-2009 Israeli Christmas-New Year onslaught on Gaza, and Israel’s 2006 blitzkrieg of Lebanon.
A “new world map.”
Chillingly, no outrage, or cries of “despicable” has been given to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement, in Switzerland, the day before the Tunisia conference, that there: “would be no Lebanon in the new world map.”(xiv)
He stated, further, that an Israeli strike against Lebanon would be supported by the United States and Gulf States countries.
There surely is a wildlife park of elephants in the room. Given George W. Bush’s “Crusade”; the belief by extreme right Israeli circles in their control of the Middle East: “from the Nile to the Euphrates” and General Wesley Clark’s revelations of 2007, that the Pentagon planned:“(taking) out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran”, there is an obvious question, sparked by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s confidence over a Lebanon attack:
Are these AIPAC and Israel’s wars?
v. http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/search?index=books&linkCode=qs&keywords=0520083989 (For timely reminder that propaganda sells wars, well worth revisiting. A crash course.)
By Victor Kotsev
The fog of war over Syria – in reality, more of a man-made smog – is fed by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and its foreign-backed opponents alike. Ambiguity cloaks both gut-wrenching scenes of human catastrophe and nauseating global indifference demonstrated by the all but open maneuverings of various international and regional players to get in on the feast.
While it is practically impossible to verify specific reports coming out of the country whose borders have been largely sealed off to journalists, it is hard to ignore the increasing evidence pointing to heinous crimes being perpetrated by the regime. These atrocities deserve unequivocal and harsh condemnation.
So do, however, the crimes of the various opposition groups and their foreign “volunteers” (the Libyan cohort has earned a special mention) and backers. Whether or not government claims that some 2,000 soldiers have been killed by “terrorists” since the start of the unrest almost a year ago are accurate, the chaos in the country keeps growing, and the rebels share the guilt.
It is possible even that they, or some among them, are actively seeking to provoke the government to commit greater atrocities in order to bring about an international intervention. Their various units and militias have been feeling the heat of battle, outgunned and outnumbered by the regular Syrian army. The Russian and Chinese vetoes at the United Nations Security Council a week ago, which sunk a resolution calling on Assad to step down, added pressure on them.
Much of the opposition’s strategy is apparently predicated on the calculation that a foreign intervention would mute the regime’s heavy weapons and take out its command and control structures (the Libyan example immediately comes to mind). On February 4, following the vote at the Security Council, the rebels were forced to confront the reality that such an intervention was more distant than they had hoped; they also faced a renewed and unrelenting army offensive. Signs that some of them may be switching to desperate tactics quickly emerged.
On Friday, for example, two bombs at “security facilities” in the key northern city of Aleppo claimed the lives of at least 28 people and wounded “hundreds more”. The American think-tank Stratfor estimates that “Despite its denial, the FSA [Free Syrian Army] or one of its offshoots most likely conducted the strikes and has denied responsibility in order to avoid being tainted by accusations of terrorism that could alienate potential foreign backers”.
The report argues, “The FSA’s motivation in launching such attacks is not only to inflict damage on government installations and personnel in retaliation for the security forces’ attacks on the opposition movement, but also to elicit a harsher crackdown from the Syrian regime. A brutal crackdown would likely attract even greater international attention and cause a humanitarian crisis, which could prompt foreign military intervention – an FSA goal since its inception.” 
In the past, such deplorable tactics have been used by guerrilla groups the world over. Rebel claims that the regime is using chemical weapons against civilians  likely serve a similar purpose.
Moreover, there is another reason why the rebels might have carried out the bombing – to wreak havoc, and instill resentment, in one of the bastions of government support. The city of Aleppo is dominated by wealthier merchant classes that are primarily interested in stability and have thus far been fairly supportive of the regime. The rebels may be trying to shake their confidence in Assad by using terror. If successful, they could turn the tables on the regime.
Whether such tactics would work or not, is another question. As Israeli journalist Zvi Bar’el points out, “It looks as if Damascus has not yet woken up from its slumber, and in Aleppo life is slowly returning to normal.” 
The capital Damascus has also been targeted in the past – on Saturday, a day after the bombings in Aleppo, a Syrian army general was assassinated there.
Yet, whatever we think of the behavior of the rebels, lately the regime has hardly needed much provoking. The thought that it may use chemical weapons against its own people (perhaps in emulation of what a late Ba’athist comrade-turned-enemy, Saddam Hussein, did in neighboring Iraq) is no longer unthinkable. Judging by his reported actions, Assad may be on the verge of desperation himself.
The city of Homs, situated between Damascus and Aleppo, close to the Lebanese border, has become the symbol of this stage of the uprising. Dozens of casualties are reported there each day, with hundreds of inhabitants of several Sunni Muslim neighborhoods allegedly killed by the army over the past 10 days. Dozens more are reported killed elsewhere in the country daily.
Whether these activist-reported statistics are accurate or not, stories and footage coming from multiple sources on the ground are deeply disturbing.  It is inhumane to ignore the very real possibility that the regime is carrying out, or is preparing to carry out, a large-scale massacre.
The most appropriate historical paradigm for that would be what Assad’s father did in the city of Hama in 1982, where he massacred mercilessly the participants in another Sunni rebellion alongside thousands of civilians. According to estimates, between 10,000 and 40,000 people died then.
In an insightful recent interview, Syria expert Joshua Landis emphasizes that a massacre on the scale of Hama would be an extreme and desperate step, but that it could be coming:
Homs really sits at the fault line of sectarian, economic, geographic fault line of this revolution. Most importantly, perhaps, because this was traditionally a Sunni city with a small Christian minority in it that had a big Alawite influx over the last fifty years. And what we are seeing is fighting between two sides of the city: the Sunni side and the Alawite side.
The country has not split up – yet – along these purely sectarian lines as we saw happen in Iraq, or in Lebanon before that, but it’s headed in that direction and that’s the very scary sort of future scenario. For that reason, the government has really not come down on Homs hard yet. It’s beginning to, and that’s what we are seeing in this big pick up in violence.
[I] f you killed 40,000 people … it would bring down a torrent of international approbation, but also, probably it would light up other areas, and it would cause a real sectarian war and the Sunnis – even the upper-class Sunnis, government Sunnis – will begin to defect in big numbers, and this regime would come crumbling down. 
United Nations officials have characterized the conflict in Syria as a civil war. It is worth noting that the violence spilled into Lebanon days ago, with clashes between Sunni and Alawite neighborhoods in the city of Tripoli.  This is yet another documented example that could help us to understand what is happening in Homs.
To Assad, nevertheless, the Libyan cities Benghazi and Misurata may loom much larger, and scarier. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly clear that not only are the Syrian rebels receiving vast amounts of military equipment and volunteers from Libya (while Gulf countries allegedly bankroll the whole thing), but also that they may be trying to implement a very similar strategy of capturing territory and enlisting foreign air cover to help defend it.
An incredibly colorful and insightful account of a rebel meeting by Time Magazine’s Rania Abouzeid demonstrates how these kinds of calculations are an integral part of rebel discussions, even at the fairly low field levels. Moreover, it is hard not to notice the similarities between Syria’s rag-tag armed opposition and Libya’s one-time rebels. (On a wholly different note, it is also important to pay attention to cracks between the rest of the opposition and the Islamic Brotherhood in Syria.) 
Unfortunately, neither the historical paradigm of 1982 nor the Libyan scenario is a very optimistic model for Syria. These are desperate, extreme outcomes. Yet the truly tragic part of the story is that were all this happening in a vacuum, if both the government and the opposition were getting desperate, they would also become more amenable to negotiations.
Right now, the rebels don’t seem to be able to stand up to the government forces in open battle, while with every day that passes the chaos grows and Assad’s hope that he will eventually be able to pacify the country recedes. However, given the speed and force with which foreign interests have descended onto Syria to fill the resulting vacuum, it seems practically inconceivable that the conflict will end soon (or peacefully).
Not only are the big-weights Russia, China and the US facing each other, but so are all the regional players (Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the helm of the Arab League, Iran, Turkey and Hezbollah deserve a special mention). Even on the lowest levels, a war economy based on smuggling and black-market profiteering networks stretching thousands of miles has quickly taken root.
The balance is such that barring major developments on the ground, an intervention is not imminent. After all, the Syrian regime has bought billions of dollars worth of anti-aircraft weapons in the past couple of years, and has stockpiled thousands of missiles, some tipped with chemical weapons.
Neither, however, do its enemies appear ready to back off. In 10 days, on February 24, a “Friends of Syria” group is scheduled to meet in Tunisia.
It’s hard not to note the irony of the name. “With friends like these …” Sadly, we can expect more bloodshed.
1. Syrian Rebels Likely Behind Aleppo Bombings, Stratfor, February 10, 2012.
2. Syrian defector: Assad using chemical weapons, Ynet, February 13, 2012.
3. Syria rebels waiting on Damascus and Aleppo to join fight against Assad, Ha’aretz, February 11, 2012.
4. For a particularly riveting account, see “While You Were Sleeping, Again,”, Jadaliyya, February 10, 2012.
5. Syria Crisis: Why Homs is the Center of Revolt, The World, February 8, 2012.
6. Two killed in north Lebanon in clashes over Syria, Reuters, February 11, 2012.
7. Syrian Rebels Plot Their Next Moves: A TIME Exclusive , Time, February 11, 2012.
Victor Kotsev is a journalist and political analyst.
There is certainly one ulterior motive behind the US-friendly Syrian crisis extravagantly fuelled by the presstitute media which keep distorting the facts on the grounds. A recent article published by the New York Times by Efraim Halevy, who headed Mossad from 1998 to 2002, sheds light on this motive. He states that Iran’s foothold in Syria has enabled Tehran to pursue its “reckless” regional policies, and to stop those policies, Iran’s presence in Syria must be ended.
To this end, the events in Syria must be so choreographed that they should lead to the overthrow of Assad regime and consequently “result in a strategic debacle for the Iranian government.”
“THE public debate in America and Israel these days is focused obsessively on whether to attack Iran in order to halt its nuclear weapons ambitions; hardly any attention is being paid to how events in Syria could result in a strategic debacle for the Iranian government,” he said.
So, it seems that the fate of Syria is intimately interwoven with that of Iran. The exorbitant efforts the West is expending in Syria to overthrow the Assad regime are in fact directed against the Islamic Republic. Once the regime of Assad is trampled under the imperialist boots, the political influence of Iran will be severely damaged. In the meantime, some media such as the state-funded BBC, the Qatar-funded Al Jazeera and the Saudi-run Al Arabiya are carving out a similar scenario in league with western imperialists.
In point of fact, Qatar’s sabotage activity in Syria started in February 2011 when Al Jazeera embarked on a pointlessly mischievous act. A page titled “The Syrian Revolution 2011” was created on Facebook which was an open invitation to rebellion in Syria. It was sonorously called “Day of Wrath” in the manner of similar Facebook pages created for uprisings in the region. Instantly, the page received over 80000 likes which was of course a technical manipulation to create multiple accounts. Interestingly, the only channel which promoted and highlighted the spurious event was Al Jazeera which was bitterly disappointed with the failed attempt as the snare it laid failed to catch any game.
Furthermore, Al Jazeera’s reporting is partly based on what it receives from the London-based “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights”, an ostensibly independent institute which has recently come into limelight thanks to its fallacious name. Funded by the Qatari and Saudi Wahhabis, the institute is composed of two groups: some members of the extremist Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and some elements from the PKK, a branch of the terrorist PKK groups who are scattered in parts of Syria, Iraq and Turkey.
Along the lines of the same policy, Saudi-run Arabic channel Al Arabiya keeps delivering exaggerated reports on the number of those killed in Syria and pointing the finger of blame at the Syrian government while independent reports reveal that the terrorists financed by the West and the Wahhabis are behind the killings. On 13 December 2012, armed terrorists exploded a gas pipeline in the Syrian province of Homs. In Idleb province, a homemade bomb killed six workers of a textile factory and wounded 16 others who were going to work on a minibus. The terrorists have also engaged in a number of sabotage activities including attacking Syrian military facilities and law enforcement agencies, exploding oil pipelines, railroads, and killing citizens, burning schools and killing students and teachers all in the name of Syrian government.
On January 18, the Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani in an interview called for deployment of Arab troops in Syria in order to put an end to what he described as “deadly crackdown” in Syria.
Also, a recent report by DEBKAfile reveals that “British and Qatari troops are directing rebel ammunition deliveries and tactics in the bloody battle for Homs”.
According to the report, Britain’s intelligence arm MI6 has set up four operation centers in the city with the troops on the ground gearing up for an undercover Turkish incursion into Syria.
Reportedly, part of the talks between Syrian officials and head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service Mikhail Fradkov which took place on Tuesday (7 February) was focused on the presence of British and Qatari forces in Homs.
Apart from the extremist Wahhabis, the US and Turkey have been training Syrian armed groups in southeastern Turkish city of Hakkari. A former employee with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Sibel Edmonds says the US is involved in smuggling arms into Syria from Incirlik military base in Turkey in addition to providing financial support for Syrian rebels.
The US has reportedly released hundreds of terrorists from its prisons in Iraq provided that they leave the country for Syria and fight against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The terrorists have entered Syria via Turkey.
Therefore, the US and Turkey have been paving the ground for military intervention in Syria by providing the terrorists with training and arms. Large caches of weapons including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, mortar bombs and heavy machine guns have been sent via ground to major unrest-wracked Syrian cities.
Add Israel to this list of anti-Syria and anti-Iran groups.
In recent years, Qatar and Israel have cemented their ties to brotherly levels. In January 2008, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak met former Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani at the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland.
In line with this meeting hitherto kept secret by Israel, a senior Qatari figure reportedly paid a visit to Israel in mid-January 2008 and met Israeli officials with a common agenda: Iran. Also, former Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni visited Qatar in April 2008 and met the Emir, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Oil and Gas. Numerous meetings between the two sides have taken place since then under different pretexts; yet, they have agreed on a number of points, inter alia, diminishing Iran’s influence in the Middle East.
Be it as it may, they are all moving in one single direction in targeting Syria without consciously wishing to form a concerted front.
What a farce!
The extremist Wahhabis, the neo-colonist Zionists and the Western imperialists have taken up arms against those who fly in the face of extremism and expansionism in the region each with its own agenda on Syria as a whipping boy with the ultimate goal of relegating Iran to the outer fringes of political power.
The violence in Syria shows no signs of abating and the country is quickly sliding into civil war. This week, the battles between government troops and the armed opposition reached the suburbs of Damascus. To date, more than 5,000 people have died in Syria, most of them civilians. The observers’ mission of the Arab League has failed to stop the violence, and its members are split over what to do next. In the U.N. Security Council, Russia and China have blocked any Western attempts to internationalize the conflict or even to condemn the Syrian leadership for its violence against protesters.
Russia has been a particularly steadfast supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Its opposition to stronger actions against the Syrian regime is founded in a fundamental aversion to revolutionary change and strong economic and geopolitical interests in the country.
The main goal of Russia’s Syrian policy is to avoid a second Libyan scenario. In that nation, the Russian government was split between a policy of noninterference and support for, or at least toleration of, NATO’s military intervention on behalf of the rebels. The latter position won out when Russia decided not to use its veto to block the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973. With regard to Syria, however, the policy of nonintervention has so far prevailed. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs made it clear in December 2011 that it opposed any kind of foreign intervention and trusts that “Syrians should reach an understanding” by way of “national dialogue between the authorities and the opposition.”
The Foreign Ministry emphasized in November that it considered “the maintenance of the unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria as one of the key countries in the Middle East” to be the primary task of the international community. Faced with growing criticism of its position and calls for Arab League troops in Syria, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov went even further. In mid-January, he warned that the policies of the West and the Arab League could lead to “a very big war that will cause suffering not only to countries in the region but also to states far beyond its boundaries.” For Lavrov, the opposition forces in Syria are nothing but “militants and extremists.” He quoted the recent terrorist attacks in Syrian cities as proof of this claim.
Lavrov’s attitude primarily reflects Russian cynicism about the results of the so-called Arab Spring. Where others find liberation in the Arab world, most pundits in Russia see the spread of extremism and instability. “The Arab revolutions of 2011 have produced the rise of fundamentalist extremism and civil wars, which may expand to become overt religious warfare with dire challenges to the global community. The expectation for democratization of dictatorial regimes in the region is sentimental and self-delusional,” writes Vladimir Belaeff, head of the Global Society Institute, in Russia Profile.
This kind of instability gives rise to fears that uprisings in the Middle East will affect Russia’s own restive Caucasus region. Observers compare the Caucasian republic of Dagestan to Syria because of its similar web of ethnic and religious tensions and conflicting loyalties. The Russian government is particularly worried that a civil war in Syria would strengthen Islamic insurgents in the Caucasus. The Arab Spring, in combination with the recent U.S.-Iranian tensions, have even led the Kremlin to order the Russian military to prepare for a potentialspillover of hostilities into the Caucasus.
Russia’s concern for regional stability is, however, only one reason behind its support for the Syrian regime. Business interests are almost equally important. In the last six years, Russia has invested heavily in Syria. In 2009 alone, investments in Syrian infrastructure, energy and tourism amounted to $19.4 billion. Russian companies such as Stroytransgaz and Tatneft are spending billions to develop Syrian natural gas and oil resources.
In 2005, Russia also forgave Syria three-quarters of its Soviet-era debt—almost $10 billion. President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Damascus in 2010 resulted in a series of economic and military agreements. A new regime in Syria could jeopardize all of those deals. Russian fears are once more based on the Libyan case: It is doubtful whether the new government in Tripoli will honor the approximately $10 billion in contracts between the Gadhafi regime and Russia.
Syria is also a valued customer of Russia’s struggling arms industry. Current arms contracts between the two countries are estimated at $4 billion. In December, they signed an agreement for the sale of 36 Russian fighter planes, valued at $550 million. That deal, along with alleged Russian ammunition shipments in January, is undermining any international attempt at establishing an arms embargo against the repressive Syrian regime.
Russia appears unwilling to abandon its decade long economic and military cooperation with Syria. The Soviet Union and Syria established diplomatic ties in the first days of the Middle Eastern country’s independence from France in 1946. Soviet specialists built the lion’s share of the Syrian rail and oil production infrastructure. Syria was one of the only countries that supported the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan in 1979. In return, the USSR provided Syria with generous military and economic support. Nine-tenths of the Syrian army’s weapons were produced in the Soviet Union. Last, but not least, the Soviet navy established a base in the Syrian port of Tartus in 1980, its only naval base in the Mediterranean. Russian specialists are renovating the base as part of the Russian navy’s efforts to strengthen its presence in the Mediterranean. A pro-Western government in Syria or the country’s fragmentation in a civil war would threaten this important foothold in the region.
However, the American government’s stance on Syria has been anything but aggressive. After the Iraq withdrawal and the struggling mission in Afghanistan, the U.S. seems rather weary of getting too involved in another country with complicated conflicts and blurred front lines. For Russia, however, support for the opposition from Western nations and the Gulf states seems to be enough to believe official Syrian assertions that the entire opposition is guided from abroad and thus illegitimate. Russia apparently still believes that Assad can maintain stability. The fact, however, that he has not been able to end the conflict in Syria in spite of using ruthless military force against civilians and offering an amnesty makes it doubtful that he will be able to hold on to power for much longer. Russia has shifted its position slightly in recent days and invited the regime and opposition to negotiations in Moscow. The opposition rejected the proposal, demanding that Assad step down first.
The Kremlin risks international isolation with its uncompromising stance on Syria. Western and Arab diplomats reacted to Russia and China’s Feb. 4 veto in the Security Council against an already watered down resolution with anger and harsh criticism. At the same time, it is doubtful whether Russia’s support for a Shiite ruler’s suppression of a mostly Sunni rebellion will contribute to weakening separatist forces in Russia’s own backyard (Russia’s Muslim population in the Caucasus is mostly Sunni).
The proponents of harsher actions against Syria in the Gulf states and the West, however, appear equally confused about how to deal with the Syrian unrest. Belaeff thus believes that Russia might actually play an oddly useful role for its international opponents: “In a perverse way, Russia may be doing the West a favor by its efforts to prevent a Western intervention, which would be prohibitively costly and Pyrrhic for the West.” In the meantime, Syrians are dying.
- February 8, 2012 27 Dead as Violence Escalates in Homs
- February 7, 2012 Iran and Israel: Only Half the Story
- February 7, 2012 Europe Decides Not to Play America’s Game
- February 7, 2012 Report Contradicts Obama on Drone Casualties
- February 6, 2012 Syrian Army Unleashes Heavy Attack on Homs
(CNN) — As violence raged in Syria, U.S. officials made clear Tuesday that the United States has lost patience with President Bashar al-Assad.
“Your days are numbered,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said in comments directed at the Syrian leader. “It is time and past time for you to transfer power responsibly and peacefully.”
Her remarks came as two senior administration officials told CNN that, while the U.S. focus remains on exerting diplomatic and economic pressure on Damascus, the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command have begun a preliminary internal review of U.S. military capabilities in order to prepare options in the event that President Obama calls for them.
Still, one of the officials said, “This remains a campaign to apply economic and diplomatic pressure.” Neither official was willing to be identified because neither is authorized to talk to the news media.
Against the backdrop of talk about possible plans for military intervention, the bloodshed continued unabated in Syria.
In Homs, an opposition activist CNN will identify only as “Danny” for his safety, said government soldiers had been going house to house by breaking through walls rather than entering the street, where they might be targeted by members of the Free Syrian Army, comprising soldiers who have defected from pro-government forces. “They’ve been bombarding us from 5 a.m., like yesterday, with rockets,” Danny said.
Soldiers had been shooting mortars and rockets into the neighborhood, he said. Among the targets on Tuesday was a Red Cross ambulance, he said. The soldiers have taken up residence in the lone hospital in the southwest Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr, he said. “They hit the operation room while doctors are doing operations; they kicked the doctors out of the hospital and all of the nurses out of the hospital and left all of the people in there.”
Civilian casualties who seek treatment there won’t find it, he said. “You’re taken by security forces and tortured to death or they let you bleed to death,” he said. Instead, casualties are seeking treatment at makeshift hospitals set up in private buildings, he said.
Such accounts appear to have had an impact thousands of miles westward, in Washington. There, U.S. Sen. John McCain, a leading Republican and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday that the United States “should start considering all options, including arming the opposition. The bloodletting has got to stop.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the United States has no immediate plans to arm the opposition.
“We are not considering that step right now,” he told reporters. “We are exploring the possibility of providing humanitarian aid to Syrians. And we are working with our partners, again, to ratchet up the pressure, ratchet up the isolation on Assad and his regime.”
Activists: Homs under heavy bombardment
China, Russia veto UN resolution on Syria
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U.S. closes embassy in Syria
Carney added that U.S. officials were “seeing a lot of indications of a lack of control over the country by the regime, of interest by senior officials within the military and the government in separating themselves from the regime.”
But State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland did not rule out the possibility of arming the opposition. “We never take anything off the table,” she told reporters.
“However, as the president himself made absolutely clear and as the secretary has continued to say, we don’t think more arms into Syria is the answer. We think the answer is to get to a national democratic dialogue, for the violence to stop, for the regime’s tanks to come out of the cities, and then for monitors to be able to go back in.”
The discussion came a group of Arab nations announced they are calling home their ambassadors. Among them was Bahrain, which last year had its own robust crackdown on dissidents.
The Gulf Cooperation Council said it made the decision “with deep sorrow and anger” at the increased pace of killings in Syria “that did not spare a child, old man, or woman — heinous acts that can be described as a collective massacre against the defenseless Syrian people without any mercy or pity, and without considering any rights or feelings of humanity or morality.”
The United Nations’ Children’s Fund said there have been “deaths and injuries of hundreds of children.”
“There are reports of children being arbitrarily arrested, tortured and sexually abused while in detention,” the organization said in a statement.
The six Gulf Cooperation Council nations — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait — also expelled Syria’s ambassadors, saying “their presence became useless after the Syrian regime has rejected all attempts, and thwarted all Arab sincere efforts to resolve this crisis and stop the bloodshed of the Syrian people.”
Spain, France and Italy called home their ambassadors as well. Britain did so on Monday, the same day the United States closed its embassy in Damascus, saying the Syrian government was refusing to address its security concerns.
The Gulf Cooperation Council also called on Arab League nations to “take decisive action against this dangerous escalation against the Syrian people” at a meeting next week.
The council may pursue another step. Use of the term “collective massacre” in the statement indicates the members are ready to begin building a case against the Syrian regime for consideration by the International Criminal Court, a council diplomatic source told CNN.
By calling for “decisive action,” the council is pressuring members of the Arab League, such as Sudan, Algeria and Iraq, to withdraw their support for the al-Assad regime and facilitate more aggressive decisions, the source said.
Meanwhile, Syria tried to project an image of support for the regime.
Throngs of supporters shown on state TV cheered the arrival of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for a meeting with al-Assad in Damascus, three days after Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have demanded al-Assad stop the violence against the opposition in his country.
“Every leader in every country should understand their responsibility. You understand yours,” Lavrov told al-Assad, according to Russia’s state-run Ria Novosti news agency. “It’s in our interests that the Arab peoples live in peace and harmony.”
In a statement reported by the state-run news agency SANA, Lavrov said al-Assad affirmed his commitment to the Arab League plan “of putting an end to violence regardless of its source. To this end, Syria affirms its interest in continuing work with the Arab League observer mission and increasing observer numbers to cover all points and verify any breaches or violations to the principle of not allowing violence regardless of source.”
Asked about Lavrov’s visit, White House press secretary Carney said, “Well, we’re not sure what the goals of his visit are. But the point we’re making is that Russia must realize that betting everything on Assad is a recipe for failure, not just for Russia’s interests in Syria but for the stability of the region and for Syria’s future.”
But in an interview Monday with PBS’s Charlie Rose, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said Moscow had been trying to work with Western countries, including the United States, to stop the killing in Syria.
“Unfortunately, from the outset they decided that it was a regime-change opportunity, so from the outset they were announcing that Assad has lost his legitimacy,” Churkin said.
The Arab League has suspended its observer mission because of the sharp increase in violence.
The Syrian government, which routinely blames the violence on “armed terrorist groups,” reiterated Tuesday that such groups were behind the violence.
“Terrorist groups continued armed attacks in Homs, Idlib and Damascus countryside targeting civilians and military personnel, and shelled residential areas with mortar shells and vandalized public and private facilities, not sparing even mosques to which citizens turned for protection,” SANA reported.
The Syrian Interior Ministry, in a statement on state TV, vowed that “the operation of pursuing the terrorist groups will continue” until security is restored in Homs. The mission includes “terminating anyone who carries a weapon and is terrorizing the citizens,” the statement said, adding that “the opportunity is still there for members of these groups to surrender.”
At least 35 people were killed Tuesday in Syria, including 19 in Homs, the city that has seen some of the worst violence in recent days; 10 in Damascus suburbs; two each in Idlib; Daraa and Aleppo, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria. Among the dead were a father, mother and their three daughters, ages 24, 16 and 12, LCC said.
Separately, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based opposition group, said late Tuesday that new clashes had erupted between defectors and security forces at a checkpoint in the city of Daeel in Daraa province.
“The entire world should be ashamed of what’s happening here,” a Damascus-based opposition member told CNN.
“Children are hungry,” and people are without power, said the activist, identified only as Zaidoun for his safety. “For God’s sake, this is too much.”
He added, “Everybody is just silent and looking at us being slaughtered every moment, for no reason — just for asking for our freedom.”
Several countries issued new calls for Syria to halt the violence.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had some of the sharpest words, calling on al-Assad “to return from this wrong path before taking the lives of more innocent civilians.” In comments broadcast live on Turkish TV, Erdogan said he had a message for al-Assad “in a way he can understand: … What goes around comes around.”
Erdogan also called events at the U.N. Security Council “a fiasco in terms of the civilized world.”
Opposition activists and several of the 13 U.N. Security Council member nations that voted for the resolution have said Russia and China have blood on their hands for vetoing it as more members of the opposition are killed.
Lavrov described Western condemnation of the veto as “hysterical,” according to Ria Novosti.
Both China and Russia said they oppose the violence and want the situation resolved through dialogue.
“We believe in continuing the efforts to reach a resolution for the Syrian crisis,” Syrian state TV quoted Lavrov as saying. “Russia needs peace and an agreement has to be reached, away from any foreign interference.”
While world leaders seek ways to mount pressure on the regime, the situation inside Syria “is beyond description,” according to the opposition Syrian Revolution General Commission. The group reported 128 deaths Monday, mostly in Homs.
“Some of these martyrs were killed with shrapnel and the others were under the rubble, and their bodies couldn’t be identified because they were in remains,” the group said.
Mousa Azzawi of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, speaking to CNN in London, said, “The situation is very dire,” and Monday was almost “like a bloodbath.”
“We have pictures of children under the age of 14 with half of their faces blown away; with children under the age of 4 with all of their bodies with nail bombs. We have pictures of one child who was dying on the lap of his mother under the age of 1,” Azzawi said.
U.N. officials estimate 6,000 people have died since protests began nearly a year ago. The Local Coordination Committees, a network of opposition activists that organizes and documents protests, said at least 7,339 people have been killed.