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  1. #341
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    Default Re: Syria

    Syria: Russia denies discussing post-Bashar al-Assad future

    Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, has been forced to deny that Moscow is discussing Syria's future without President Bashar al-Assad, in the latest diplomatic spat between the US and Russia.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Photo: Reuters/Getty











    3:10PM BST 15 Jun 2012




    Mr Lavrov denied the allegations by State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland that Moscow and Washington "are continuing to talk about a post-Assad transition strategy."




    Mr Lavrov, who met with the State Department's No. 2 official William Burns in Kabul on Thursday, maintained that Russia believes it is up to the Syrians to determine their country's future and said foreign players shouldn't meddle.




    "It's not true that we are discussing Syria's fate after Bashar Assad," Mr Lavrov said following talks in Moscow with his Iraqi counterpart. "We aren't dealing with a regime change either through approving unilateral actions at the United Nations Security Council nor through taking part in some political conspiracies."




    Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, has issued increasingly harsh words over Russia's refusal to take tougher measures on Syria, though her accusation that Russia "dramatically" escalated the crisis in Syria lost steam Thursday when the State Department acknowledged the helicopters she accused Moscow of sending were actually refurbished ones already owned by the Assad regime.




    The claim had complicated the Obama administration's larger goals for Syria and US-Russia relations.

    Related Articles





    Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday that Moscow is only providing Syria with defensive weapons, adding that the refurbishment of the helicopters supplied many years ago had been planned in advance.



    Despite pressure from the West, Russia, along with China, has twice shielded Syria, its last remaining ally in the Arab world, from international sanctions over Assad's violent crackdown on protests that have left 13,000 people dead, according to opposition groups.



    Mr Lavrov argued that an international conference on Syria that Russia has proposed should focus on persuading the Syrian parties to sit down for talks. He said that a June 30 meeting on Syria in Geneva proposed by U.N. and Arab League envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, should pursue the same goal, warning that Russia would oppose any attempt to use the conference to determine Syria's future.



    "This meeting should be aimed at mobilising resources that foreign players have to create conditions needed to start an all-Syrian political process, not to predetermine its direction."



    He warned against using the conference to "justify any future unilateral actions."
    Mr Lavrov said that Russia believes that a conference on Syria it's proposing should bring together the five permanent members of the UN Security Council along with all Syria's neighbours, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Arab League, the European Union and Iran.



    In an apparent reference to the US objections against Iran's participation, Mr Lavrov said the conference organisers should be driven by a desire to settle the conflict, not "ideological preferences."
    Source: AP
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    Default Re: Syria

    Quote Originally Posted by vector7 View Post
    And this from USA news... MSLSD....er... NBC...

    US official: Russia sends troops to Syria as peace hopes fade

    Days before President Barack Obama's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, there has been a war of words between the U.S. and Syria's longtime military supplier. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

    By Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, and msnbc.com news services

    Russia is sending armed troops to Syria amid escalating violence there, United States military officials told NBC News Friday, in a move certain to frustrate Western efforts to put pressure on the regime of President Bashir Assad.

    Moscow has sent a ship carrying a small contingent of combat forces to guard Russia’s deep-water port and military base at the Syrian city of Tartus, the US officials said.

    The U.S. officials also said Russia has not sent additional attack helicopters to the Syrian government, but replacement parts for the Russian helicopters the Syrians are already flying.

    It comes after the conflict was declared by France on Wednesday to be a full-blown civil war.

    The head of the U.N. observers in Syria said Friday a recent spike in bloodshed is derailing the mission to monitor and defuse more than a year of violence and could prompt the unarmed force to pull out.

    "Violence over the past 10 days has been intensifying willingly by the both parties, with losses on both sides and significant risks to our observers," Maj. Gen. Robert Mood told reporters in Damascus. "The escalating violence is now limiting our ability to observe, verify, report as well as assist in local dialogue and stability projects."

    Tartus is one of Russia’s most strategically-important assets, giving it military access to the Mediterranean Sea.

    Russia and China, both permanent members of the U.N. Security Council with veto power, frustrated attempts by key Western figures, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to enforce a United Nations peace plan brokered by special envoy Kofi Annan.

    Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday repeated Moscow's strong opposition to external interference in Syria, said it was not discussing plans for a Syrian political transformation following the exit of Assad.

    PhotoBlog: Inside Syria


    At a news conference after talks with his Iraqi counterpart, Lavrov said he had seen reports saying U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland had suggested Washington and Moscow were discussing a post-Assad strategy in Syria.

    "If that was really said then it's not true," Lavrov said. "Such discussions are not being held and cannot be held, because to decide for the Syrian people contradicts our position completely.

    "We do not get involved in overthrowing regimes - neither through approval of unilateral actions by the U.N. Security Council nor by participation in any political plots."

    Nuland was asked at a news conference on Thursday whether the United States and Russia were discussing a transition of power similar to that seen in Yemen last year, in which President Ali Abdullah Saleh was replaced by a deputy.

    "We are continuing to talk about a post-Assad transition strategy in that context," she said.

    Government forces in Syria have driven rebel fighters out of the town of Haffa near the Turkish border and are now allowing UN monitors to enter the area. NBC's Richard Engel reports.

    Lavrov said any broad international talks on Syria must include Iran and must only address ways to create conditions for a political dialogue in Syria - not the content of that dialogue or preconditions such as Assad's exit.

    Russia, which has come under increasing criticism from the West for arms deliveries to Syria, responded to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's allegations that attack helicopters were on the way from Russia to Syria.
    In a statement on the Foreign Ministry website, Russia said it had made no new deliveries of military helicopters to Syria but under old contracts it had repaired helicopters sent to Syria "many years ago".

    "There are no new deliveries of Russian military helicopters to Syria. All arms industry cooperation with Syria is limited to a transfer of defensive arms," the ministry said on its website.

    "As regards helicopters, planned repairs of (helicopters) delivered to Syria many years ago were conducted earlier," it said. It did not say when they had been repaired or, if they were repaired in Russia, when they were returned to Syria.

    Inside Syria: War-torn city of Homs scarred by violence, riddled with fear



    Syria's ambassador to Russia said on Thursday Russia had not sent new attack helicopters to Syria.

    Russia says it is fulfilling existing contracts for air defense systems against external attacks. President Vladimir Putin, due to meet U.S. President Barack Obama next week, said the weapons Russia sends could not be used in civil conflicts.

    A source close to Russia's arms exporting monopoly Rosoboronexport said Clinton's comments may have referred to helicopters sent to Russia in 2009 for repairs and which may be on the way back to Syria.

    The source said on Wednesday at least nine Mi-25 helicopters were sent to Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad to be repaired by Oboronservis, owned by the Defense Ministry.

    Russia delivered three different missile systems including Bastion anti-ship missile units and another anti-aircraft system to Syria last year.

    At least two ships carrying Russian weapons have reportedly travelled to Syria since the beginning of the year, though possibly not on behalf of state arms exporter Rosoboronexport.

    Reuters contributed to this report. Jim Miklaszewski is the chief Pentagon correspondent for NBC News.
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    Default Re: Syria

    Syria Violence Intensifies; Russia Digs In on Assad
    Posted Friday, June 15th, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    The head of the U.N. observer force in Syria has accused both rebels and government troops of stoking violence in the country. This comes as Russia hardens its position against Western pressure to topple embattled President Bashar al-Assad.

    Major General Robert Mood said Friday that fighting over the past 10 days has been “willingly intensified by both parties, with losses on both sides and significant risks to our observers.” He said the escalating attacks could prompt his unarmed force to pull out.

    The Syrian government continued its offensive against rebel-held areas Friday. Fierce fighting was reported throughout Aleppo province and the central city of Homs.

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA security forces are also shelling opposition areas and clashing with rebels in Douma and Damascus. Scores of people have been killed over the past few days amid the intensified fighting.

    In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied his government is discussing plans for a political transformation in Syria. He said Russia does “not get involved in overthrowing regimes – neither through approval of unilateral actions by the U.N. Security Council nor by participation in any political plots.”

    U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland suggested Thursday Washington and Moscow were discussing a post-Assad strategy in Syria.

    Russia, along with China, has vetoed two U.N. Security Council resolutions against Mr. Assad and has vowed to oppose any military intervention.

    With international efforts to mediate an end to the bloody conflict stalled, members of Syria's fractured opposition met in Istanbul Friday in an attempt to settle their differences and present a unified front.

    Opposition leader Ammar al-Qurabi said their aim is not necessarily to find a replacement for President Assad, but to bring democracy to Syria.

    “The problem is not about the shape or any umbrella. We discuss paper, we discuss democracy. The people fight Assad because they hate the dictatorship.”

    The meeting, which includes delegates from the U.S., Britain, and France, comes as world powers made tentative plans to hold a June 30 summit in Geneva to revive international envoy Kofi Annan's shattered U.N.-backed peace plan.

    Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said Friday that Syrian forces are using sexual violence to torture men, women, and boys detained during the country's 15-month anti-government uprising.

    The New York-based rights group released a statement saying soldiers and pro-government armed militias are sexually abusing girls as young as 12 years old. The group based its report on interviews with former detainees who described being sexually abused or witnessing abuses, including rape, beatings and electric shocks.

    The group says it documented more than 20 incidents of sexual assault between March 2011 and March 2012, with most of the cases occurring in Homs.
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    Saturday, June 16, 2012

    Syrian peace plan falters; Russia warns against "plots"

    By Thomas Grove and Oliver Holmes

    MOSCOW/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Both rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are intensifying violence in Syria and striving for military gains rather than peaceful transition, the chief U.N. monitor in Syria said on Friday.
    Demonstrators take part in a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Sermeen, near the northern city of Idlib June 15, 2012. REUTERS/Shaam News Network/Handout

    Major-General Robert Mood's comments came as Russia further dug its feet in against Western pressure to topple Assad, insisting it would not discuss a post-Assad Syria.


    "Violence over the past 10 days has been intensified, again willingly by both parties, with losses on both sides and at significant risk to our observers," Mood said in Damascus.


    "There appears to be a lack of willingness to see a peaceful transition.

    Instead there is a push towards advancing military positions."


    In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said discussions regarding a political transformation in Syria after Assad "are not being held and cannot be held, because to decide for the Syrian people contradicts our position completely".


    "We do not get involved in overthrowing regimes - neither through approval of unilateral actions by the U.N. Security Council nor by participation in any political plots," he said.


    His comments were a response to a remark by U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland suggesting Washington and Moscow were discussing a post-Assad strategy in Syria.


    Russia's Foreign Ministry also rebutted accusations by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton that Russia was sending attack helicopters to Syria. It said Moscow had made no new deliveries, but had at some point carried out "previously planned repairs of (helicopters), which were delivered to Syria many years ago".


    WORLD DIVIDED


    World powers are deeply divided over Syria, with Russia and China - both permanent members of the U.N. Security Council with veto power - blocking efforts by Western powers to condemn Assad or call for his removal after 15 months of bloodshed.


    Violence has surged in recent weeks after government forces and allied militia launched offensives to regain territories controlled by the opposition and rebels abandoned a ceasefire negotiated by international envoy Kofi Annan.


    Turkish President Abdullah Gul said his worst fears were being realised in Syria.


    "Our biggest fear was to reach this point that we are in today, it is almost at a state of civil war. We did what we could, unfortunately the situation is worst," he said on Turkish-language channel CNNTurk.


    Britain's U.N. envoy Lyall Grant said on Thursday "it is time for the Security Council to take much tougher action to enforce the Kofi Annan plan," echoing comments on Tuesday by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who suggested the possibility of a no-fly zone.


    Human Rights Watch accused Assad's forces of using rape and other sexual violence against men, women and children during the uprising, citing interviews with victims.


    "Sexual violence in detention is one of many horrific weapons in the Syrian government's torture arsenal and Syrian security forces regularly use it to humiliate and degrade detainees with complete impunity," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW.


    "The assaults are not limited to detention facilities - government forces and pro-government shabiha militia members have also sexually assaulted women and girls during home raids and residential sweeps."
    The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was striving to alleviate growing suffering.


    "More and more people are in need of help," said Alexandre Equey, deputy head of the ICRC delegation in Syria. "In some areas, people are unable to get out, and help cannot get in."


    Heavy clashes were reported across Syria on Friday. Opposition activists said they would hold peaceful protests. In amateur video posted on the Internet, demonstrators held signs saying: "Russia: enemy number one for the Syrian people."


    (Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Seda Sezer in Istanbul; Writing by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Andrew Roche)
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    Default Re: Syria

    U.S. revises Syrian helicopter statements





    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to the media as Susan Rice, United Nations ambassador for the U.S, listens following the Security Council meeting held to discuss the Arab League's peace plan for Syria at the UN on January 31, 2012 in New York City. The proposed plan calls for the transfer of power from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to his deputy and for free elections to be held. UPI/Monika Graff License photo


    Published: June 15, 2012 at 12:40 PM
    WASHINGTON, June 15 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department revised its condemnation of Russian attack helicopters deployed in Syria after it emerged they were refurbished vehicles.
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this week that there were concerns that Russian attack helicopters were on their way to Syria, "which will escalate the conflict quite dramatically."
    Russia, one of Syria's largest arms suppliers, objects to formal censuring of Damascus at the U.N. Security Council for the ongoing bloodshed.
    Executives at Russian arms trader Rosoboronexport said its existing contracts with the Syrian military didn't violate international laws. Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, criticized the French government for letting the company take part in an arms expo in Paris.
    Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman, revised the U.S. position during her regular press briefing.
    "These are helicopters that have been out of the fight for some six months or longer. They are freshly refurbished," she said. "The question is simply what one expects them to be used for when one sees what the current fleet's being used for."
    The crisis in Syria is showing signs of civil war and the government there is suspected of committing war crimes. Damascus maintains its dealing with domestic terrorists.


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    Default Re: Syria

    US holds high-level talks with Syrian rebels seeking weapons in Washington

    Syrian rebels have held meetings with senior US government officials in Washington as pressure mounts on the US to authorise a shipment of heavy weapons, including surface-to-air missiles to combat the Assad regime, the Daily Telegraph has learned.

    Anti-government demonstrations taking place in Daraa Photo: AFP/GETTY








    By Peter Foster, and Ruth Sherlock in Washington



    6:30PM BST 15 Jun 2012




    A senior Free Syrian Army representative met in the past week at the US State Department with the US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford and Frederick Hoff, special coordinator for the Middle East, sources have confirmed.




    The rebel emissaries, armed with an iPad showing detailed plans on Google Earth identifying rebel positions and regime targets, have also met with senior members of the National Security Council, which advises President Obama on national security policy.




    The consultations come ahead of next week's G20 meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico where British and US officials are expected to make a last-ditch attempt to get the Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene in the Syria crisis.




    Privately, western diplomats admit they now harbour scant hopes of forcing a change of heart on Russia, which has steadfastly refused to bow to US and British pressure to do more to arrest Syria's slide into sectarian civil war.




    While there remains little appetite for direct western military intervention, the Daily Telegraph has learned that advanced contingency plans are already in place to supply heavy weapons to the rebels, including sophisticated anti-tank weapons and surface to-air-missiles.



    The move towards what was described as a "Libya lite" intervention in Syria is expected to gather force following the anticipated failure of the Annan peace plan and the meeting of the Syria Contact Group scheduled for June 30 in Geneva.



    Senior Middle Eastern diplomatic sources said that Libyan-supplied weapons, paid for by Saudi Arabia and Qatari government funds and private donations, had already been stockpiled in anticipation of the "inevitable" intervention needed to end the Assad regime.



    "The intervention will happen. It is not a question of 'if', but 'when'. The Libyans are willing to provide the anti-tank weapons, others are prepared to pay for it," the source said



    He added, however, that Turkey would "not open the floodgates" of acting as a conduit for the arms without Nato and US-backing that would guarantee them support in the event of a Syrian backlash, possibly mobilising Syrian Kurdish groups against Turkey.



    Middle Eastern diplomatic sources said that the Obama administration was fully aware of the preparations being made to arm Syrian opposition groups.



    The US has also agreed to be part of a group of countries that coordinates assistance to the rebels, the sources said, but was still deliberating over the time frame for escalation.



    The Obama administration, which campaigned on a promise to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been reluctant to give the greenlight to military intervention in Syria as they seek a second term from a war-weary electorate.
    However proponents of arming the rebels are now arguing forcefully that US inaction leaves Mr Obama vulnerable to accusations from the Republican camp that he is 'leading from behind' at the cost of thousands of innocent Syrian lives – a charge that would stick if there was another massacre.



    Those in Washington who are lobbying on behalf of the rebel Free Syrian Army are aware of the limited political impetus for intervention in an election year, and that any deal would most likely need to be struck before influential congressmen return to their districts for summer recess in July.



    FSA representatives in Washington have compiled a "targeted list" of heavy weaponry, including anti-tank missiles and heavy machine guns that they plan to present to US government officials in the coming two weeks.



    Reports that heavy anti-weapons had been smuggled into Syria this week were denied by FSA sources that said that the rebels were still armed only with RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenades.



    However the Daily Telegraph understands that the contacts between rebels groups and senior US government officials have now reached the "getting to know you stage" as the administration faces the growing likelihood it will have to sanction some kind of indirect intervention.



    The US defence establishment is concerned that sophisticated weapons could fall into the hands of Islamist militants, or accelerate the cycle of sectarian revenge-killings, rather than bring about the swift demise of the Assad regime.



    The FSA has long been seen as the name given to a collection of disparate militias.



    The movement has established a better command and control structure on the ground in recent months, setting up opposition military councils in ten Syrian cities and towns, including in the capital.
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    Default Re: Syria

    China 'greatly concerned' by 'critical' Syria situation

    China said on Wednesday the situation in Syria had reached a "critical juncture" and expressed its "great concern", as a UN official said the country was now in a full-scale civil war.

    United Nation observers inspect a government military position at Talbisah area in Homs Photo: EPA











    10:14AM BST 13 Jun 2012




    World powers are groping to find a way to end the bloodshed in Syria with the toll growing daily despite a ceasefire that should have gone into effect from April 12, and there are reports of children being used as human shields.




    China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, has repeatedly opposed foreign intervention in Syria, and has urged both sides in the conflict to implement UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan.




    "China expresses its great concern over the development of the situation in Syria. We believe the situation in Syria is at a critical juncture," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told journalists.




    "We hope parties in Syria can do everything they can to protect civilians."

    Activists say 14,100 people have been killed in the 15-month uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said this week he believed Syria was now in a civil war.



    Annan has been trying to implement on the ground his six-point peace plan, which calls for both sides to lay down their arms immediately and participate in a Syrian-led political transition.



    But there has been increasing violence as Assad has refused to step aside and instead unleashed his heavily armed forces against the opposition.



    Faced with the deteriorating situation in Syria, Russia has put forward a proposal to hold an international conference on how to resolve the crisis that would include Iran – a close ally of Damascus.



    Liu said China was "positive" about the proposal, but the United States, France and Britain have expressed strong reservations over the possible inclusion of Iran in the talks.
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    Default Re: Syria

    Syrian Fighting Gathers Pace

    The UN now admits that Syria is in a state of civil war, as the fighting intensifies even further and the specter of Al-Qaeda rears its head.
    Free Syria Army fighers in Indlib



    The Syrian crisis continued this week, amidst increasing violence, claims and counterclaims, and more damning evidence of atrocities uncovered by the UN.

    International observers are moving closer and closer to a consensus that a state of outright civil war exists in Syria, though both the government and the opposition dispute this.


    The UN’s head of peacekeeping operations, Herve Ladsous, told reporters on Tuesday that Syria was now in a state of outright civil war, the first admission of its kind by an official of the organization. He went on to add: “Clearly what is happening is that the government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory in several cities to the opposition and wants to retake control of these areas.”


    The Syrian foreign ministry denied the claim, and issued a statement saying “Syria has not descended into civil war, but is witnessing a struggle to eradicate the scourge of terrorism and revenge killing, kidnappings and ransom, bombings and attacks on state institutions and the destruction of public and private property and other brutal crimes”.


    Rebel groups, on the other hand, said Mr Ladsous’s statement was inaccurate because it failed to make a moral distinction between the two sides.


    Perhaps even more worryingly both for the West and opponents of international intervention, evidence is growing that Al Qaeda-linked militants are increasingly active in Syria, and seeking to play a role in the conflict.


    British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced in the British parliament on Monday: “We … have reason to believe that terrorist groups affiliated to al-Qaeda have committed attacks designed to exacerbate the violence, with serious implications for international security.”



    Before he was killed in an American drone strike in Pakistan last week, Al-Qaeda’s deputy chief Abu Yaya Al-Libi called on Syrians to take up arms against the government in a pre-recorded message.

    The Syrian government routinely claim that ‘terrorist gangs’ are at the forefront of the conflict, something denied by the opposition. Spokesmen for the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) also deny any links to radical groups like Al Qaeda. With some areas of Syria outside of government control and the opposition fractured, it is unlikely that either side can exert enough control to exclude determined militants from involving themselves in the conflict wracking Syria.


    Before he was killed in an American drone strike in Pakistan last week, Al-Qaeda’s deputy chief Abu Yaya Al-Libi called on Syrians to take up arms against the government in a pre-recorded message

    The Syrian government came in for criticism from the UN for its treatment of children during the uprising on Monday. The annual report from the Secretary-General on children in conflict accuses forces loyal to the Syrian government of killed and torturing children and teenagers in the course of fighting against the uprising, including using them as human shields, and sexually assaulting others.


    The UN’s special representative for children and conflict also criticized the opposition, specifically the Free Syrian Army (FSA) for allowing children to take part in its struggle against the government in non-combat roles, placing them in harms way.


    Within Syria itself, an angry mob of supporters of President Assad’s government blocked attempts by UN monitors to reach the town of Haffeh on Tuesday, and the monitors were fired upon as they left the scene, damaging some vehicles but causing no injuries. They returned on Friday, and reported finding the town deserted, with evidence on heavy fighting everywhere.


    Meanwhile, a diplomatic row broke out between the US and Russia, after American Secretary of State Hilary Clinton accused the Russia government with supplying the Syrian military with new attack helicopters. Russian government spokesmen denied the American claim, and countered with claims of their own that the US and some Gulf states were supplying weapons to the rebels.


    The US later conceded that it had been mistaken about the transfer of helicopters to Syria, though Russia admitted that it had reconditioned the aircraft and returned them to Syria. The use of attack helicopters is reportedly a new development, and represents an escalation of the intensity of the fighting.


    The head of the UN monitoring mission on Syria, General Robert Moody, said on Friday that the levels of violence used by both sides was increasing. He said in a prepared statement: “Violence, over the past 10 days, has been intensifying, again willingly by the both parties, with losses on both sides”.


    “There appears to be a lack of willingness to seek a peaceful transition. Instead there is a push towards advancing military positions”, he added.



    Among the Syrian opposition abroad, the Syrian National Council (SNC) selected a new leader on Monday. Abdulbaset Sayda, a Syrian Kurd who has spent several years in exile in Sweden.
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    Default Re: Syria

    Ok, someone tell me why the various news channels are NOT covering this stuff???

    It's screwed up. I just asked three different people who are "in the know" about a lot of things. NOT A CLUE AMONG THEM OF RUSSIA AND US GOING NOSE TO NOSE!!!!!!!!!


    Syria puts stress on US-Russia ties on eve of Obama-Putin talks






    By Matt Spetalnick and Steve Gutterman
    WASHINGTON/MOSCOW | Wed Jun 13, 2012 7:53pm EDT

    (Reuters) - An escalating crisis in Syria, echoing with Cold War-style recriminations, has badly frayed U.S.-Russian relations at a delicate time, just as U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin try to renew their relationship.


    U.S. charges that Russia is arming the Syrian government as it attacks its opponents with lethal force, and Moscow's blocking of tougher action against Damascus, appear to indicate that tough times are ahead for Putin's relationship with Obama and, perhaps, his successor.


    The fiercely nationalist Putin, who re-assumed the Russian presidency last month, is due to meet Obama at a G20 summit in Mexico early next week, their first encounter in three years. There is growing skepticism the two men can find common ground on Syria or other festering disputes.


    Obama has touted the "reset" of relations with Russia, which came during the term of Putin predecessor Dmitry Medvedev, as one of his signature foreign policy achievements.


    But Washington finds itself increasingly at odds with Moscow on issues from Syria and Iran to missile defense and human rights. Putin shows no sign of backing away from the anti-Western rhetoric and positions that have long been his hallmark.


    That could set the stage for an uncomfortable meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico.


    "The point is to break the ice, score a few political points but not have any kind of diplomatic blow-up in the process," said Matthew Rodansky, a Washington-based Russia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


    SYRIA TOPS AGENDA


    How Obama and Putin address Syria - both behind closed doors and in front of the cameras - will be critical.


    Syria poses a test of how far Obama will risk antagonizing Russia by pushing it to abandon embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime ally and arms customer.


    Obama already faces criticism from Republicans - including presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney - over his "reset" policy with Russia.


    In recent days, it has been Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, rather than Obama personally, who has spearheaded the U.S. pressure campaign against Russia.
    In an unusually direct rebuke, she voiced concern on Tuesday that Moscow was sending attack helicopters to Syria and dismissed as "patently untrue" Russian denials that its weapons were being used in the conflict.


    Dimitri Simes, head of the National Interest think-tank in Washington, said harsh rhetoric could backfire by pushing Moscow into a corner and making it even less cooperative. "This is not the way you normally talk about your partner," he said.


    Obama may seek to lower the temperature with Putin but he is also expected to be assertive enough to avoid giving Republican foes fresh ammunition to accuse him of appeasing Moscow.


    Putin will be in no mood for concessions that could be seen as a sign of weakness as he seeks to quell dissent at home with tactics that are drawing U.S. criticism.
    He also will be wary of any concrete commitments to an American president whose political future remains uncertain beyond the fall, Kremlin watchers say.


    At the heart of Putin's refusal to budge on Syria is resentment over what he charges was NATO overstepping its U.N. mandate in Libya last year with a bombing campaign that helped oust Muammar Gaddafi. His suspicion is that giving ground again would open the way to regime change in Damascus, dealing a blow to Russia's interests in the region.


    FROM PUTIN TO ... PUTIN


    On a personal level, there is reason to doubt whether "No-Drama" Obama and brash, macho-talking Putin will click.


    After U.S.-Russian relations soured at the end of his predecessor's term, Obama adopted a more pragmatic approach.


    He pushed through a series of deals to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons arsenals, allow Moscow to join the World Trade Organization and secure supply routes through Russia for NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan.


    The close, businesslike partnership that Obama forged with Medvedev, a mild-mannered technocrat handpicked by Putin to succeed him as president in 2008, helped ease the way.


    But it was also clear to Washington that Putin, who nominally became prime minister at the time, was the "Alpha dog" of Russia's ruling tandem and the reset would not have been possible without him backing it from behind-the-scenes.


    Now Putin has begun another six-year presidential term and is again Russia's chief interlocutor with the United States - a role he pointedly underscored in snubbing a G8 summit hosted by Obama less than two weeks after he was sworn in.


    The tough foreign policy statements Putin has issued since his inauguration, including his insistence that Moscow will not tolerate interference in its affairs and a demand for binding guarantees on any anti-missile system, could foreshadow what Obama will face if he wins a second term.


    Obama got a taste on his first trip to Russia in July 2009.


    White House aides had hoped the secluded setting of Putin's forested estate outside Moscow would let the two men size each other up without posturing for the cameras. But even behind closed doors, Putin was determined to test the young American president, according to insiders' accounts of the meeting.


    PUTIN'S MONOLOGUE


    For nearly an hour, Putin ticked off a long list of Russian complaints almost without interruption, touching on everything from missile defense to the U.S. invasion of Iraq to perceived missteps in the post-September 11 fight against Islamist militancy.


    Obama listened patiently and when Putin's monologue was over he asked that they extend the meeting and work to find a path toward improved relations.


    The warming trend set in motion during Obama's Russia trip three years ago has since run its course.


    But White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes dismissed the notion that Putin's hardened rhetoric signaled a desire to reverse the diplomatic gains of the reset, suggesting instead that he was playing to his political base.


    "Putin was speaking to that streak of Russian nationalism that's very much in line with his political identity," Rhodes said in a recent interview.


    But strains have deepened as NATO pushes ahead with missile defense in Europe, which Putin says would hurt Russia's strategic deterrence despite Washington's assertion that it is meant to protect against an Iranian missile threat.


    Obama was caught on camera in March asking Medvedev to assure Putin he would have "more flexibility" on such issues after the November election - to which Medvedev responded that he would "transmit this information to Vladimir."


    The potential consequences for Russia relations if Obama loses in November will not be lost on Putin since Romney has called Russia an "enemy."


    U.S. Senator John McCain, a harsh critic of Obama's Russia policy, said the president's outreach had only emboldened Putin to keep supplying arms to Assad's forces while cracking down on democracy protesters at home and that the Los Cabos meeting was not likely to change that dynamic.


    "The president has shown his naivete," McCain told Reuters.
    (Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Caren Bohan; Editing by Bill Trott)
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    Default Re: Syria

    Russia-America tussle over Syria evokes Cold War

    By Douglas Hamilton

    TEL AVIV | Wed Jun 13, 2012 3:28pm EDT

    (Reuters) - The world could slip back into a Cold War over Syria and the sprawling Arab country could break up into two or three warring parts, with unforeseeable consequences for the Middle East, a senior Israeli military commander said.

    "Support for (Syrian President Bashar) Assad from Russia and China is taking us back to the Cold War," he said this week, on condition of anonymity. "The world is not a one-man show."

    A regional proxy war is already under way in Syria, he said, with direct, daily, on-the-ground support for Assad from his allies in Iran and Lebanon's heavily-armed Hezbollah movement.

    "There can be real chaos. It can take years," he said.

    The 15-month-old conflict in Syria has grown into a full-scale civil war, the U.N. peacekeeping chief said on Tuesday.

    Hundreds of civilians, rebels and members of Assad's army and security forces have been killed since a ceasefire deal brokered two months ago was meant to halt the bloodshed.

    Russia and China backed the United Nations plan to send in military observers to check on adherence to the truce, but have refused to consider Western calls for a U.N. Security mandate that would authorize force, including military intervention.

    The West has repeatedly said it has no plan to intervene, but has not ruled it out.

    "In Syria, a proxy war is under way with Iran supplying arms to its Alawite client and Turkey actively arming the opposition," says Can Kasapoglu, a Turkish analyst who is currently a visiting fellow at Israel's Begin-Sadat think tank.

    The rebel Free Syrian Army is getting support from Sunni states Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, all allies of Washington.

    Recent video of spectacularly successful attacks destroying Syrian tanks suggests the rebels may have obtained modern anti-tank weapons more powerful than rocket-propelled grenades.

    Washington says Russia may be sending attack helicopters to its ally Syria. Claims by Moscow that its arms transfers to Syria are unrelated to the conflict are "patently untrue," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday.

    Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday defended his country's sale of arms to Syria, an ally for decades where Moscow has Mediterranean port facilities.

    Washington Said it stood by Secretary Clinton's comments.

    PROXY WARS

    The tussle is reminiscent of Cold War diplomacy when proxy wars were frequently in the background. The superpowers, who could not risk a direct nuclear-armed confrontation between each other, battled for hegemony by involvement on warring sides in third countries.

    From 1945 to the collapse of Soviet communism in 1989 there were proxy wars in Greece, Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Angola, Mozambique, Cuba, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

    In the post-Cold War world, America was the only superpower, but spheres of influence were heeded.

    Moscow did not take on NATO when its former Yugoslav ally Serbia was bombed by the Western alliance in 1999 over the civil war in Kosovo, or when the Western allies led by Washington invaded Iraq in 2003.

    In the former Soviet republic of Georgia, Russia was able to successfully back its secessionist allies militarily without triggering a war with the United States.

    In Libya last year, however, Moscow was stung by NATO's military intervention under a U.N. mandate it believed had been stretched beyond the limits it had agreed to.

    Israel sees the Syrian civil war becoming part of the struggle for dominance in the Arab world between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims. "Shia are only 20 percent of Muslims in the world but have taken the lead away from the Sunnis," he said.

    FLASHPOINT

    "Assad has seen the death of Gaddafi in Libya and the fate of Mubarak in Egypt and he understands he has no choice. He knows his Alawite minority will be slaughtered," the officer said. "We all know the end of the story. We just don't know the chapters."

    The question is who might grab the lead in "this Sykes-Picot country", he said, referring to Syria's creation by colonial powers Britain and France after the First World War, on what look like arbitrary geographical lines that disregard tribal and ethnic distinctions.

    "Who will replace Assad? Will it be all those doctors in Europe (Syrian National Council in exile) or will it be al Qaeda?" said the officer, adding U.S. ally Saudi Arabia was very concerned.

    "It is not a nation state like Iran and Egypt are. It can become two or three states."

    The risks of a regional war were clear, he said, as key U.S. Middle East ally Israel faces the possibility of its sworn enemy Iran becoming a nuclear-armed state and contemplates whether military action will be needed in the end to stop it.

    Israel has to be prepared, he said.

    "You don't know what will trigger it, but everything is ready for a big, big fire. You don't know who will strike the match."

    (This story has been refiled to deletes quotes attributed to Lavrov in Tehran, which were mistranslated and to correct headline to say evokes instead of invokes)

    (Reporting By Douglas Hamilton; Editing by Sophie Hares)
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    UN Syria observers could be forced to abandon mission

    Comments by UN commander in Syria General Robert Mood suggest escalating violence is putting his mission at risk







    The head of the UN mission in Syria, General Robert Mood, speaks to reporters in Damascus. Photograph: Youssef Badawi/EPA



    UN monitors could be forced to abandon their mission in Syria in the face of escalating violence in the conflict between the regime and rebels, its commander signalled on Friday on another day of bloodshed and protests across the country.


    The comments by General Robert Mood, the Norwegian who commands the 300-strong UN observer team, were further evidence of the collapse of the peace plan promoted by Kofi Annan on behalf of the UN and Arab League. In a week that has seen repeated warnings that Syria is in an open civil war there is still no alternative international initiative on offer.


    Meanwhile the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, was described by a senior Arab official in close touch with Damascus as "losing contact with reality", according to members of his own inner circle, and dependent on Russian financial aid.


    The Syrian crisis is expected to be discussed in talks between the US president, Barack Obama, and Russia's Vladimir Putin on the margins of the G20 summit on Monday, diplomats said. Russia is seen as the only outside power capable of influencing Assad, its long-standing ally.


    Tensions rose this week when the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, accused Russia of escalating the conflict by supplying attack helicopters to Syria. But it transpired that the aircraft had been refurbished in Russia and were being sent back. The two countries are also at odds over whether Iran, Assad's ally, should be part of efforts to bring peace to Syria.


    US-Russian differences were again highlighted on Friday when Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, denied holding any talks with the US on a post-Assad Syria. "We aren't dealing with a regime change either through approving unilateral actions at the United Nations security council nor through taking part in some political conspiracies," Lavrov said.


    Syria is also on the agenda for a meeting in London on Saturday between David Cameron and King Abdullah of Jordan.


    Assad's forces and their opponents are both ignoring a ceasefire that was supposed to have taken effect on 12 April. On Friday the regime kept up an offensive against Homs and other rebel areas.


    The Local Co-ordination Committees, an opposition network, reported 29 people killed in Deir Ezzor, Deraa, the Damascus region, Homs and Aleppo. Sana, the state news agency, reported the arrest of a man who it said had confessed to plans to blow himself up at a Damascus mosque.


    One video from Idlib showed hundreds of demonstrators shouting slogans against the regime as some held opposition flags and a sign reading "Death to Russia".


    Mood said: "The attacks by the armed opposition on official buildings and government checkpoints are becoming more effective and the government is taking great losses. Violence over the past 10 days has been intensifying by both parties, with losses on both sides and significant risks to our observers."


    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights urged the UN monitors to end the violence or leave the country. "The role of the international observers has become that of a witness to murder," the UK-based watchdog said. On Thursday at least 84 people died in clashes and bombings across Syria, 48 of them civilians, it said. An estimated 14-15,000 people have been killed in Syria in the last 15 months.
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    Default Re: Syria

    One post on the DUmmies forum:

    http://www.democraticunderground.com/1133424

    Just one. But they are "onto" it finally.

    This is why no one on the planet knows wtf is happening around them. They have to get their news from MSNBC or it's not real or whatever.

    This is terribly sad.

    I would think the DUmmies would be ALL over this for "human rights" violations or something.... but NO, they have to attack people like Cheney, Bush and good Americans.
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    Default Re: Syria

    http://www.newsroomamerica.com/story/255252.html





    Urgent: From Syria's frontlines

    By Newsroom America Feeds at 11:39 am Eastern
    Amnesty International USA Urgent: From Syria's frontlines
    Dear Newsroom,

    This week Amnesty is releasing shocking field investigations from the frontlines of the crisis in Syria.

    Amnesty found widespread new evidence of heinous war crimes committed by the Syrian government armed forces and militias.

    Recent news coverage of massacres in the towns of Houla and Daraa has increased global awareness of the crisis. Our investigations provide unequivocal evidence that the Syrian army is responsible for gross violations of human rights on a massive scale.

    We need to continue our work in Syria until the atrocities stop. We are counting on people like you to help support our efforts – calling the world’s attention to human rights abuses committed in Syria and in other countries with oppressive regimes. Please donate today.

    Time and time again Amnesty spoke with grieving families who told us how their relatives had been taken away by soldiers and shot dead, often just a few steps from their front doors.

    Through our comprehensive report, the international community now has ample, credible documentation of the scale and gravity of the abuses. We now need your help to:
    Pressure Russia and China to immediately halt weapons and munitions transfers to the Syrian government. Demand that the United Nations Security Council act decisively in the wake of mounting global awareness of the crisis. Ensure that human rights monitors can travel throughout Syria to get the facts that break through the Syrian government’s lies.
    Please help Amnesty keep global attention and pressure on Syria’s government.

    Sincerely,

    Sanjeev Bery
    Advocacy Director, Middle East North Africa
    Amnesty International USA

    P.S. Read the investigation and help spread the word.

    Stand with the Syrian People

    A Syrian mother mourns her 19-year-old son. (c)AFP/Getty Images
    “Is the world just going to keep watching and do nothing until we’ve all been killed?” - Syrian man, speaking to Amnesty International last month.

    “Little Juma’a, eight years old, was shot in throat and in the palms of both hands; he was holding his hands up when he was shot.” – an individual describes the brutality in Biftamoun, Syria

    SHARE THIS EMAIL
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    Default Re: Syria

    Big powers move in on Syria: Russian troops for Tartus. US forces ready to go

    DEBKAfile Special Report June 15, 2012, 7:39 PM (GMT+02:00) Tags: Syria US military action Russian military

    A contingent of Russian special forces is on its way to Syria to guard the Russian navy’s deep-water port at the Syria’s Mediterranean coastal town of Tartus, Pentagon officials informed US NBC TV Friday, June 15. They are coming by ship. According to debkafile’s sources, the contingent is made up of naval marines and is due to land in Syria in the coming hours.

    In a separate and earlier announcement, US Defense Department sources in Washington reported that the US military had completed its own planning for a variety of US operations against Syria, or for assisting neighboring countries in the event action was ordered – a reference, according to our sources, to Turkey, Jordan and Israel.

    The Syrian civil war is now moving into a new phase of major power military intervention, say debkafile’s military sources. Moscow, by sending troops to Syria without UN Security Council approval, has set up a precedent for the United States, the European Union and Arab governments to follow. They all held back from sending troops to Syria because all motions to apply force for halting the bloodshed in Syria was blocked in the UN body.

    According to US military sources, in recent weeks, the Pentagon has finalized its assessment of what types of units would be needed and how many troops. The military planning includes a scenario for a no-fly zone as well as protecting chemical and biological sites. The U.S. Navy is maintaining a presence of three surface combatants and a submarine in the eastern Mediterranean to conduct electronic surveillance and reconnaissance on the Syrian regime, a senior Pentagon official said.

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    Nikita Khrushchev: "We will bury you"
    "Your grandchildren will live under communism."
    “You Americans are so gullible.
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    Default Re: Syria

    US says doesn't seek end of Russian influence in Syria


    (AFP) – 55 minutes ago

    WASHINGTON — The United States said Friday as President Barack Obama geared up to meet President Vladimir Putin, that it did not seek to prevent Russian influence in a Syria no longer ruled by Bashar al-Assad.

    Russia has balked at US efforts to push President Assad from power as civil and sectarian strife rages Syria, apparently partly motivated to retain a crucial Middle Eastern and Mediterranean ally dating from the Soviet era.

    "We have certainly made clear that our interest in Syria is not the end of any kind of Russian influence," deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters, ahead of Putin's talks with Obama in Mexico on Monday.

    "Our interest in Syria is an end to the violence that's being committed against the Syrian people and a government that reflects the will of the Syrian people," Rhodes said, adding that for such a scenario to unfold, Assad needed to leave power.

    "If Syria continues to have a relationship with Russia, if Russia continues to have, again, a close relationship with the future government of Syria, that would be in the natural decision-making of two sovereign nations."

    "It's not our goal in Syria to eliminate Russian influence."

    Rhodes said that Washington was still checking into earlier reports, by NBC News citing a US official, that Moscow had sent armed troops to Syria to guard its deep-water port and military base in the Syrian city of Tartus.

    Earlier Friday, Moscow denied discussing Assad's departure with Western nations in a move seemingly meant to quash reports from several major capitals about a shift in Russia's approach that acknowledged Assad's days were limited.

    The French foreign minister said on Friday that Russia views Assad as a "tyrant" while a US State Department spokeswoman said a day earlier that "the Russians have also talked about" a political transition in Syria.

    "If this was really said, this is not true," Lavrov said in reference to US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland's comments.

    "There were no such discussions and there could not have been such discussions. This completely contradicts our position," he told reporters.

    Analysts say that Russia's position on Syria is partly motivated by its experience in Libya, when it decided not to block a UN-mandated no fly zone, only to see Western nations help push dictator Moamer Khadafi from power.

    Lavrov was speaking a day after meeting US Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns in Kabul for talks that Washington said touched on a transition in Syria modeled on the one adopted for Yemen in the past year.

    Nuland on Friday billed Obama's talks with Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the Mexican resort of Los Cabos as a "good opportunity" to discuss differences between the two governments over Syria.

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    Nikita Khrushchev: "We will bury you"
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  16. #356
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    Default Re: Syria

    Russia is secretly HOPING the US says "Get your ass out" and remove your bases.

    They want us to do that.

    Putin is such a bloody egotist (shirtless on TV, shooting and killing big cats/animals for 'reality tv' or whatever) that all we have to tell him is "Be the hero, stop the killing there".

    He should be able to keep his 'contracts' with Syria - just not Assad. Right?
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    Default Re: Syria

    France: Moscow Involved in Post-Assad Talks



    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks at a news conference in Moscow, Russia, June 9, 2012.


    Lisa Bryant
    June 15, 2012

    PARIS - Russia denies holding talks with western nations about the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but French officials say talks involving Moscow officials are taking place.

    In an interview on French radio, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said discussions among U.S., French and Russian officials, along with international mediator Kofi Annan, are underway to prepare for a Syria without its current leader, President Bashar al-Assad.

    Explaining that Russia, Syria's staunchest international ally, recognizes Assad is a tyrant and assassin, he said, Moscow is not attached to him as a person but is worried about who would replace him if driven from power.

    While Fabius said an interim post-Assad scenario could draw on opposition leaders, along with former members of the Assad government, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied holding any discussions about Assad's departure.

    In remarks broadcast on France 24 television, Lavrov said "no such discussions" took place, and that Russia is "not involved in regime change," either through the United Nations Security Council or political plotting.

    The international community is looking for ways to end the increasingly violent Syrian crisis that France describes as a civil war.

    The conflict escalated this week, with a fierce offensive by the Syrian regime against rebel-held areas.

    Foreign Minister Fabius said France will not supply arms to the rebels because it would escalate the fighting. But, he added, Paris might supply communications material to the rebels, which would be a first.
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  18. #358
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    Default Re: Syria

    Clock Ticking for Russian Political Solution in Syria

    In this Jan. 25, 2005 file photo, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a signing ceremony in the Kremlin, Moscow.

    James Brooke
    June 14, 2012

    MOSCOW - Russia is Syria's biggest ally. Over the last year, the Kremlin has painted the Syrian revolt as a proxy war between East and West. Now with Syria slipping more and more into a civil war, can Moscow use its influence over Damascus to forge a political solution?

    Syria’s ambassador to Russia told reporters in Moscow Thursday that “armed terrorist groups” are committing massacres in order “to excuse foreign intervention, foreign interference and buffer zones.”

    Ambassador Riyad Haddad said that 1,500 Syrian soldiers have been killed in the two months since the cease-fire announced under the Kofi Annan peace plan for Syria.

    On Monday, Hervé Ladsous, the head of U.N. peacekeeping operations, said Syria is now in a civil war.

    But blaming the escalating violence on Western-backed terrorists is music to many ears in Moscow, a close ally of Syria’s ruling Assad family for the last 40 years. Long the largest source of arms for Syria, Russia maintains its only naval base outside the former Soviet Union at the Syrian port of Tartus.

    In Moscow, Russian analysts casually dismiss reports of government massacres of Syrian civilians as part of a “Western media war.”

    This view is shared by Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the Institute of Near Eastern Studies. He has his own solution to Syria.

    “The only way is the same that was during the Vietnam War - Yankee Go Home. In this time, we can say, Europeans, Americans, Gulf monarchies and all other idiots trying to play a game in Syria, including Turkey, can take their luggage, go home, and sleep well," he said.

    Asked about Russia, he said Moscow has no involvement in Syria’s internal conflict.

    This week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton charged that Russia is shipping attack helicopters to Syria. This shipment would come after at least three Russian ships delivered arms to Syria in recent months.

    Next week, Syria is likely to be discussed when Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin have their first presidential-level meeting. The meeting may well be tense. Mr. Putin is never known to have used in public the word "reset", a code word for the détente policy favored by his predecessor, Dmitry Medvedev.

    Carnegie Moscow Center’s Masha Lipman predicts that progress on Syria will fall victim to Mr. Putin’s desire to block Washington at every turn.

    “The distrust, the suspicion that America is a threat, that America is there to weaken Russia remains the basis of their relations, and given the inauspicious environment these days, inside Russia, outside Russia, I think the contradictions come to the fore," she said.

    With the Annan peace plan due for renewal by the United Nations in one month, many analysts say the clock is running out before Syria descends into the kind of sectarian civil war seen in neighboring Lebanon in the 1980s.

    In the 15 months since the fighting broke out in Syria, the opposition calculates that 13,000 people have been killed.

    In Moscow, Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, writes that Russia and Iran must act now “to prevent [an] avalanche that would bury their interests in Syria.”

    He writes that the solution is for the two nations to push for a gradual change of power from the Assad family.

    Despite the anti-Western fireworks often heard in Russia on Syria, Moscow may be coming around to that view.

    On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gave a press conference in Tehran with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi. Lavrov stressed that Russia’s ties and interests are with the Syrian people, not with the Assad clan.

    Now, it remains to be seen if Moscow can move fast enough to broker a political solution, before Syria descends into a full-fledged civil war.
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    Default Re: Syria

    Civil War Designation for Syria Would Trigger Humanitarian Protections





    Syrian security forces officers hold portraits of Syrian President Bashar Assad from the windows of their building, which was destroyed after a car bomb exploded near the shrine of Sayyida Zeinab, in a suburb of Damascus, Syria, June 14, 2012.









    Margaret Besheer
    June 14, 2012




    This week a senior U.N. official said the situation in Syria could be characterized as a civil war, adding his voice to that of several foreign ministers and other diplomats.

    U.N. peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous' remarks to two reporters made news worldwide.

    Asked if the situation in Syria is a civil war now, Ladsous replied, "Yes, I think one can say that."

    Last week, U.N.-Arab League mediator Kofi Annan made a similar assessment.

    "Given the level of violence and the actors on the ground, you could say we are drifting, if we are not already, in a sort of a civil war," said Annan. "All efforts are being made to ensure that if it were to become a full-blown civil war, it doesn't spread to the neighbors."

    On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Syria is "spiraling toward civil war," while the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said "if you cannot call it a civil war, there are no words to describe it."

    But what changes if the world deems the 15-month-old conflict a civil war?

    Georgetown University Law Center adjunct professor Gary Solis says a civil war designation would trigger the Geneva Conventions on conducting war, specifically protections in Common Article 3.

    "And Common Article 3 provides basic protections for those who are out of the combat, for example, soldiers who have surrendered or who have been wounded and are captured; for civilians; for any non-combatants. Common Article 3 provides basic protections and that is why it is so important. And so to say there is a civil war suggests that Common Article 3 now applies and that is significant of course for the victims of the civil war," said Solis.

    But Solis adds a very important caveat.

    "The problem, however, is that there is no supra-national body, including the U.N., that can say with authority, 'all right this is a civil war; this is not a civil war.' There is no international body which can give a binding opinion that this is indeed a civil war," Solis explained.

    He says the international community needs to establish a united consensus through the United Nations and organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to credibly designate conflict a civil war.

    The U.N. Security Council has been divided on the Syrian situation. Russia and China have resisted calls for stronger measures such as international sanctions to help end the violence. But the council is united in its support for Kofi Annan's mediation efforts and voted unanimously to dispatch 300 unarmed U.N. observers to monitor the conflict.

    The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) does not use the term "civil war" in describing armed conflicts. It uses the legal term, which is "non-international armed conflict."

    ICRC Middle East spokesman Hicham Hassan says the ICRC uses two criteria to assess whether a conflict qualifies as a non-international armed conflict - the intensity of fighting and the organization of armed groups.

    "If we take intensity, for example, it means the means and methods that are used in the combat, it means the casualties, it means what kinds of weapons are used - all those things go inside the intensity factor," said Hassan. "And if we talk about the organization of the armed groups, what we look at, the question we ask ourselves is, 'Is there one armed group operating across the country or across certain areas with one determined leadership?'"

    In April the ICRC assessed that a state of non-international armed conflict exists in parts of Syria, but not across the entire country.

    "Why is it important to determine what kind of situation it is? It is simply to determine what rules apply. And why is it important to determine what rules apply? It is simply to afford people and potential victims of armed conflict the best protection possible. That is the aim of this classification the ICRC gives," said Hassan.

    He says the ICRC has notified both the Syrian government and opposition of its assessment and reminded them of their obligations under international humanitarian law. He adds that the ICRC has access to "almost all" areas affected by the fighting.

    The U.N. estimates more than 9,000 Syrians have been killed since government forces began to suppress opposition protests calling for political reforms last year. The United States and other governments have repeatedly called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to halt the fighting and step down.
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    Default Re: Syria

    Report: More Russian troops heading to Syria

    By Carlo Munoz
    06/15/12 03:03 PM ET

    Russia is deploying another batch of troops to Syria as Moscow and Washington continue to spar over the best way to resolve the worsening crisis in the country.

    A Russian warship carrying a small contingent of troops is en route to the country's naval base in Tartus, to provide security for the installation U.S. officials told NBC News on Friday.

    In March, Moscow reportedly sent elite units of Russian marines and special-operations forces to Syria to conduct anti-terrorism missions in the country.Two months later, a Russian guided-missile destroyer, named the Smetlivy, was sent to Tartus, joining three other warships deployed to the Russian naval base in Syria on March 19, according to reports at the time by Agence France Presse and al Arabiya.

    News of the recent deployment comes amid claims by the White House that US relations with Russia have improved significantly in recent weeks.

    However, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes admitted differences remain between Russia and the United States on removing Syrian president Bashar Assad from power.

    Rhodes comments come days before President Obama is scheduled to meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin during the G20 meeting in Mexico next week.

    Russia has been an outspoken critic of U.S. and international efforts to depose Assad, since Syria remains one of Moscow's most important allies in the region.

    But Assad's brutal armed crackdown on anti-government rebels in Syria has turned up international pressure on Russia and its ties to the regime.

    Congress has ratcheted up that pressure in the past days, condemning sales of Russian weapons and helicopters to Assad's forces, who have been using those weapons to slaughter Syrian civilians.

    On Friday, a bipartisan group of seven senators led by Sens John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced a resolution slamming Russia's continued armed support for the Assad's government via state-sponsored defense firms.

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier this week that Russia is sending attack helicopters to Syria, but the State Department walked back the remarks saying that the helicopters were refurbished and were being returned to Syria.

    Still, a State Department spokeswoman said there is concern that the helicopters will be used by Assad's government to kill civilians and attack opposition forces.

    To that end, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) announced Wednesday he was blocking the confirmation of the Army’s new acquisition chief over the Pentagon’s ties to Rosoboronexport -- a Russian defense firm that also supplies weapons and support to Syria and Iran.

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    Nikita Khrushchev: "We will bury you"
    "Your grandchildren will live under communism."
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    outright, but we’ll keep feeding you small doses of
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    until you’ll finally wake up and find you already have communism.

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