Clinton hints at more direct help in Syria
The Obama administration is weighing its options for more direct involvement in the Syrian civil war if the rebels opposing the Assad regime can take control of enough territory to create a safe haven for themselves, US officials have said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said it was only a matter of time before the rebels have enough territory and organisation to create such areas.
“More and more territory is being taken,” Ms Clinton said this week. “It will eventually result in a safe haven inside Syria, which will then provide a base for further actions by the opposition.”
A senior American official, speaking on condition of anonymity yesterday, said the US is seeing “increased unity, cohesion and better military performance” among the rebels, including greater effectiveness in co-ordinating attacks, which the administration sees as proof the rebels are better employing the encrypted radios already supplied by the US.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday warned world powers not to repeat in Syria the mistakes they made in Bosnia, during a landmark visit to Srebrenica where UN peacekeepers failed to prevent the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys.
“I don’t want to see any of my successors after 20 years visiting Syria and apologising for what we could have done now to protect civilians in Syria, which we are not doing,” Ban said after laying flowers at a white marble memorial to the Srebrenica victims.
Echoing the sentiment, the US state department warned yesterday that it appeared that forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad were “lining up” for a massacre in the city of Aleppo, but again ruled out military intervention in the conflict.
The US State Department said that credible reports of tank columns moving on Aleppo along with air strikes by helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft represented a “serious escalation” of the government’s efforts to crush an armed rebellion.
“This is the concern: that we will see a massacre in Aleppo and that’s what the regime appears to be lining up for,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
“Our hearts are with the people of Aleppo, and again this is another desperate attempt by a regime that is going down to maintain control, and we are greatly concerned about what they are capable of in Aleppo.”
Raising the alarm over Aleppo, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius urged Russia and China to act with the United Nations Security Council to prevent a “bloodbath”.
One of the most senior figures to defect from Mr Assad’s inner circle, Brigadier General Manaf Tlas, has now put himself forward as someone who could help unite the fragmented opposition inside and outside Syria on a plan for a transfer of power.
General Tlas, a former friend of Mr Assad’s who some have suggested could play a part in any transition of power, said he had not defected from Syria to seek a leadership role.
“I am discussing with ... people outside Syria to reach a consensus with those inside,” he told the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat in an interview published yesterday.
“I left [Syria]... to try to help the best I can to get Syria out of this crisis”.
Gen Tlas, a former Republican Guard commander defected this month and is now in Jeddah, apparently enjoying Saudi support.
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