A Russian official has said for the first time that the Syrian government may be defeated by opposition forces.
President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are “losing more and more control and territory”, deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on Thursday.
Russia was also making plans for a possible evacuation of thousands of its citizens in Syria, Mr Bogdanov said.
Russia has been one of the staunchest international allies of Mr Assad’s government.
“Unfortunately, we cannot rule out the victory of the Syrian opposition,” Mr Bogdanov said.
Russia, along with China, has used its veto at the UN Security Council to block resolutions condemning the Syrian government’s use of violence.
Continued Unrest over Morsy’s end run with the new constitution.
Egypt’s capital boiled Wednesday as protesters supporting and opposing President Mohamed Morsy geared up for demonstrations.
People angered by Morsy continued a sit-in in Cairo’s Tahrir Square after a night marked by violent clashes outside the presidential palace.
Police fired tear gas Tuesday night after protesters broke through barbed wire around the palace building and hurled chairs and rocks at retreating officers. Opposition forces later were calling for a march toward the palace.
After the initial clashes, police withdrew behind fences and the large demonstration was peaceful for several hours. A few dozen protesters and a scattering of tents remained outside the Itihadiya palace Wednesday.
Foreign Secretary William Hague has said the UK has decided to recognise the Syrian opposition coalition.
He told MPs the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces was the “sole legitimate representative” of the Syrian people.
He said they were now a “credible” alternative to the Assad government.
In the absence of a diplomatic solution, he told MPs the UK would not rule out any action - subject to international law - to save lives.
Up to 30,000 people have been killed in the 18-month conflict, the UK believes.
Those trying to bring down President Bashar al-Assad’s government moved closer to a united front when the rival leaders of Syria’s rebels formed the coalition after months of bitter division.
Turkey made it clear on Thursday that it officially recognized a newly formed rebel coalition as the legitimate leader of the Syrian people, an important step in the group’s effort to attract legitimacy and, it hopes, more weapons to bring about the end of President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.
Turkey “once again reiterates its recognition of the Syrian national coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people,” Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said in a speech at an Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Djibouti, the tiny country on the Horn of Africa.
The announcement by Turkey, Syria’s northern neighbor and a haven for thousands of Syrian refugees and rebel fighters, was the third significant recognition of the new group this week. On Monday, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait — recognized the group, known as the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. On Tuesday, France became the first Western country to do so, and it said it was considering providing arms to the insurgent groups within Syria that have been engaged in a 20-month-long war with the government that has claimed nearly 40,000 lives.
Syria’s foreign minister blasted U.S. and other Western and Arab nations at the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, accusing them of supporting terrorism by supplying weapons and guidance to rebels fighting for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In an address webcast worldwide on U.N. television, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem also branded calls for Assad to step down as “blatant interference in the domestic affairs of Syria.” He said the appeals for regime change were made by “those who are ignorant of the facts or may be ignoring them.”
The U.S. says it supplies non-lethal assistance to the rebels but not weaponry. Some states in the gulf region have sent arms to the opposition forces in Syria.
Moallem named the United States, France, Turkey, Libya, Qatar and Saudi Arabia as states “that clearly induce and support terrorism in Syria with money, weapons and foreign fighters.” He was referring to support for the rebels who have been battling Assad’s forces in an 18-month uprising against the autocratic government.
Moallem directed his harshest words at “some members of the U.N. Security Council,” referring to U.S.-backed resolutions to condemn the Syrian government for atrocities committed during the fighting and to demand that Assad step aside and allow negotiations on a new leadership. The proposed resolutions failed to get the necessary unanimous support of the five permanent Security Council members, as Russia and China refused to back them.
Assad’s loyalists have cast the rebellion in Syria as the work of foreign terrorists rather than a domestic uprising aimed at breaking the government’s stranglehold on political power.
More than 25 Syrian men were found shot to death on Friday near the northern city of Aleppo in circumstances that remained unclear, but appeared to be a rebel ambush, according to accounts from both Syrian state media and opposition activists.
The official Syrian Arab News Agency reported that armed terrorist gangs, the standard government description for all opposition forces, carried out what it described as a brutal massacre of the men, described as kidnapping victims, in Daret Azzeh, in western Aleppo Province.
Most of the dead had been shot and their bodies mutilated, the official account said, with some of the kidnapping victims still missing. It did not provide any other details.
Following two explosions that ripped the face off a Syrian intelligence building comes a brazen allegation: That Syrian security forces carried out the attacks themselves.
The explosion in Damascus Thursday killed up to 55 people and, according to the Syrian Interior Ministry, injured 372 others. While the Syrian government blamed the attacks on “foreign-backed” opposition forces, Syria’s two opposition movements, the Syrian National Council and the National Coordination Committee, denied carrying out the attacks, claiming that Syrian security forces were responsible. The question for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is whether the opposition forces are technically capable of carrying out such an attack. The question for the opposition forces is whether the Syrian regime is actually this desperate to discredit the opposition.
As for the latter question, the regime would have to be incredibly hopeless to resort to such tactics. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the blasts “destroyed the nation’s intelligence agency,” reports CNN. The Associared Press’ Bassam Mroue describes the building as being “heavily” damaged, “leaving blood and human remains in the streets.” Would the regime be willing to lose its intelligence resources for a PR stunt?
THE breezy hilltop resort of Zabadani is usually occupied by rich Syrians in second homes and Gulf tourists enjoying the picturesque mountains on the Lebanese border. But for much of January the town of some 40,000 people has been a rebel enclave. After several days of fighting by daring but lightly armed opposition forces, the army, equipped with tanks and heavy weaponry, was forced to pull back on January 18th. Residents hailed their “liberated city” and hung pictures of the dead in a tree. They waved placards and shouted slogans ridiculing the regime. Civilians guarded checkpoints usually manned by the security forces.
Zabadani is not the first place in Syria to experience a brief taste of freedom over the past ten months. Last year Mr Assad’s forces temporarily lost control to the opposition in Hama, the country’s fourth-largest city. Rastan and Tel Kalakh, two small towns close to Homs, have at times barricaded themselves in. Parts of Homs, the third-largest city, and villages near Idleb have also enjoyed a measure of autonomy.
But Zabadani is much closer to Damascus, the capital, than any of them—about 25 miles (40km). The fight for control of the country is no longer taking place far from the centre of power. Just days after Zabadani was liberated, armed clashes erupted in Douma, a suburb six miles from Damascus. Army defectors seized control of the town for a few hours.
Reports of firefights are no longer rare in what was once a peaceful capital. Two large car bombs exploded in front of a security-services’ building on December 23rd. It was followed by another one in a residential area a fortnight later. Few Syrians now dare to drive on the country’s main artery, the highway from the capital north to Aleppo, a commercial hub, fearing ambushes on the road. Military buses and oil pipelines are often hit by explosions. Who is responsible is hard to know. “There is so much going on that it gives the feeling that everything is starting to unravel,” says a Western diplomat in Damascus.
A year ago Syria could call itself the safest country in the region. But since the start of the uprising in March, the regime has presided over rising violence. It appears readier than ever now to employ heavy weapons and kill indiscriminately.