Secretary of State John F. Kerry used an unannounced visit to Iraq on Sunday to lobby Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for greater scrutiny of flights the United States claims carry Iranian weapons and fighters across Iraq to Syria.
The Obama administration has been unable to persuade Iraq to block such flights or even to perform regular inspections. Iraq claims that Iranian flights over its territory carry only humanitarian supplies for the civil war in next-door Syria, and the only two known inspections of Iranian aircraft showed only those supplies.
The United States claims that the sheer volume of flights crossing Iraq points to regular arms shipments. A senior U.S. official traveling with Kerry said there are flights nearly every day. The official would not say how the United States is certain the planes are carrying weapons for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an Iranian ally, but repeatedly asserted that is the case.
(Reuters) - The Syrian opposition leader met Russia’s foreign minister on Saturday and a diplomatic source said he would also see Iran’s foreign minister, opening a window to a possible breakthrough in efforts to broker an end to Syria’s civil war.
Russia and Iran have been the staunchest allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad throughout an armed uprising against his rule, and any understandings they might reach with Assad’s foes could help overcome the two sides’ refusal to negotiate.
At an annual international security conference in Munich, Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz Alkhatib had talks with Russia’s Sergei Lavrov that may have been made possible by Alkhatib signaling readiness to talk to Damascus.
He also met separately with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and U.N. special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.
“Russia has a certain vision but we welcome negotiations to alleviate the crisis and there are lots of details that need to be discussed,” Alkhatib said after the meeting.
A diplomatic source said the Alkhatib would also meet Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who was attending the Munich security conference on Saturday, but this could not be independently confirmed.
Russia has blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at pushing out Assad out or pressuring him to end the civil war, in which more than 60,000 people have died. But Moscow has also tried to distance itself from Assad by saying it is not trying to prop him up and will not offer him asylum.
Turkish artillery has fired on positions inside Syria after shells from Syria killed five people in a southern Turkish border town.
A woman and her three children were among those killed earlier when the shells, apparently fired by Syrian government forces, hit Akcakale.
Turkey’s response marks the first time it has fired into Syria during the 18-month-long uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Nato ambassadors discussed the crisis.
The military alliance issued a statement saying it “continues to stand by (Nato member) Turkey and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an ally, and urges the Syrian regime to put an end to flagrant violations of international law”.
Turkey’s territory has been hit by fire from Syria on several occasions since the uprising against President Assad began, but Wednesday’s incident was the most serious.
If those chemical weapons get in to the wrong hands (al Qaeda, etc…) it’s just a matter of time before they use those weapons.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Monday threatened U.S. military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, warning in the strongest terms yet that any attempt to deploy or use chemical or biological weapons would cross a “red line” for the United States.
Pointing out that he had refrained “at this point” from ordering U.S. military engagement in Syria’s bloody conflict, Obama said that there would be “enormous consequences” if Assad failed to safeguard his weapons of mass destruction.
Meanwhile the Russians are not happy. I guess they have no problem with the chances of terrorist attacks being carried out at levels we haven’t seen since 9-11.
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the West on Tuesday against unilateral action on Syria a day after President Barack Obama said U.S. forces could intervene if his Syrian counterpart deployed chemical weapons against rebels trying to topple him.
Lavrov met China’s top diplomat and a Syrian government delegation in what appeared to be a push to keep diplomacy going at a time when fewer Western and Arab governments believe that a U.N.-backed peace plan can end the violence.
Russia and China have opposed military intervention in Syria throughout 17 months of bloodshed and have vetoed three U.N. Security Council resolutions backed by Western and Arab states that would have raised pressure on Damascus to stop bloodshed.
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on Saturday approved the formation of a new cabinet by Prime Minister Riad Hijab.
It has a new ministerial post of National Reconciliation, apparently designed to try to help quell the uprising against the rule of the former government, which has grown increasingly violent over the past 15 months.
The new post was taken by prominent opposition figure Ali Haidar, leader of the Syrian Social National Party.
An even higher post was even given to another opposition figure, Qadri Jamil, head of the Popular Front for Change and Liberation, who was assigned as deputy Premier for Economic Affairs and Minister for Trade
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has accused Russia of sending attack helicopters to Syria, warning that the shipment “will escalate the conflict quite dramatically.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has rejected Clinton’s claim, saying that Russia is only shipping air defense systems under previously signed contracts.
Russia has shielded Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, its last ally in the Arab world, from international sanctions and has continued to provide it with weapons despite international outrage. It has shipped billions of dollars worth of missiles, combat jets, tanks, artillery and other military gear to Syria over more than four decades. Moscow says it’s currently providing Assad with weapons intended to protect Syria from a foreign invasion and is not delivering the kinds of weapons needed to fight lightly armed insurgents in cities.
Rebels seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime launched separate three attacks on his security forces around Damascus on Tuesday, killing two ranking officers and rocking the capital with a car-bomb, activists and state media said.
The attacks took place as a U.N. team observing Syria’s violence-ridden truce was visiting another area near the capital, the restive suburb of Douma. Activists and amateur videos reported shelling and gunfire in that area Tuesday, just a day after 55 people were killed across Syria - most of them in a city the observers had recently visited.
Syrian forces on Monday fired across the border at a refugee camp in Turkey, killing one and wounding four, activists said. It is the first such attack since Ankara began allowing thousands of refugees to find shelter in the country.
A Turkish government official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government rules, said his country - which stands at the forefront of calls for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad - immediately protested the incident and called for fire to be halted.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the incident began at about 4 a.m. Monday when opposition fighters attacked Syrian forces at the Salameh border crossing with Syria.
More than 2,300 fled on Wednesday, by far the highest number in one day.
Earlier, the UN called for the Syrian government to “urgently” implement an agreed ceasefire.
The approach of the deadline for a ceasefire seems to have brought an intensification rather than reduction in violence.
In the Jouret al-Shiyah quarter of Homs, shells or rockets were falling at a rate of four in 30 seconds.
Activists accuse the government of trying to complete its crackdown come what may; government officials say it is the rebel fighters who are exploiting the impending withdrawal of the military from towns and cities to improve their position.
Activist groups say at least 60 people were killed in shelling or shooting by security forces on Thursday in various parts of the country, mainly the central city of Homs and Idlib province in the north-west.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting to crush a year-long uprising, agreed late last month to a UN-Arab League peace plan which sets a 10 April deadline for a ceasefire.
The United States and dozens of other countries moved closer on Sunday to direct intervention in the fighting in Syria, with Arab nations pledging $100 million to pay opposition fighters and the Obama administration agreeing to send communications equipment to help rebels organize and evade Syria’s military, according to participants gathered here.
Turkish riot police sprayed tear gas at supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as they demonstrated outside the conference venue.
The moves reflected a growing consensus, at least among the officials who met here this weekend under the rubric “Friends of Syria,” that mediation efforts by the United Nations peace envoy, Kofi Annan, were failing to halt the violence that is heading into its second year in Syria and that more forceful action was needed.