News / Middle East

Clinton: Russian Stalling Could Push Syria into Civil War

Clinton speaks about Syria while in DenmarkClinton speaks about Syria while in Denmark
x
Clinton speaks about Syria while in Denmark
Clinton speaks about Syria while in Denmark
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Russia's failure to take decisive action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "is going to help contribute" to the very civil war officials in Moscow say they are helping to avoid.

Speaking in Denmark Thursday, Clinton said she rejects the Russians' "vociferous...claim that they are providing a stabilizing influence" in Syria. Instead, she said, Moscow is propping up Mr. Assad as his government continues a brutal crackdown on dissent U.N. estimates say has killed more than 10,000 people.

"We have very strong opposition from Russia and China, but it is primarily Russia," Clinton said, "and that makes it harder to put together an international coalition."

Russia has repeatedly blocked the U.N. Security Council from taking punitive action against the Assad government, a longtime Russian ally.

White House spokesman Jay Carney echoed Clinton's warnings about the danger of Syria's unrest morphing into a proxy war that draws in Iran and other regional powers.

"The longer Assad and his thugs are allowed to brutally murder the Syrian people," he said, "the more likely it becomes a sectarian civil war, the more likely that it spills over Syrian borders.'' Carney warned of a "proxy war" with Iran backing Mr. Assad and other outside nations or forces backing insurgent factions.

Also Thursday, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice condemned as "reprehensible" the latest reported Russian arms delivery to Syria. Media reports and rights groups said a Russian cargo ship heavily laden with weapons docked at the Syrian port of Tartus last week.

Western officials confirmed her comments, adding they understood the ship had been carrying arms for the Syrian government.

Syria is one of Russia's top weapons customers. The U.S. and European Union have suggested the U.N. Security Council should impose an arms embargo and other international sanctions on Syria.

U.S. and European security officials say Iran has also offered Assad extensive support to help him suppress anti-government protests, from high-tech surveillance technology to guns and ammunition.

Last week's massacre of at least 108 people in the Syrian town of Houla - nearly half of them children - has rekindled new urgency into efforts to stem the 15-month-old conflict. The U.N. has said much of the killing was carried out at close range, while activists say pro-government militia known as shabiha were responsible.

Syria Government Explanation

The Syrian government said Thursday a preliminary investigation into the atrocity revealed that hundreds of armed men had attacked families who did not join anti-government protests. Brigadier General Qassem Suleiman said the victims were families that "refused to rise up against the government."

Rice called the Syrian report "another blatant lie."

The head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday that government troops killed three people in overnight shelling near Houla. Rami Abdel Rahman said a 14-year-old boy was later killed by sniper fire.

Damascus-based U.N. spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh said U.N. monitors based in nearby Homs were traveling to Houla to verify the reports of renewed attacks.

Rebel Deadline

In a statement Thursday, a rebel Free Syrian Army commander gave Assad a deadline of noon Friday local time to start acting on commitments made to international peace envoy Kofi Annan.

Annan was discussing the Syrian crisis with Lebanese officials in Beirut Thursday after talks with Jordanian King Abdullah in Amman.

Rebel Colonel Qassim Saadeddine said his forces would no longer be bound by the Annan peace plan if the Syrian president fails to comply.

The Free Syrian Army is a loosely-organized and lightly-armed rebel group made largely of Syrian military defectors. The Syrian government and the rebels agreed in April to a truce mediated by Annan, but the fighting has continued, with each side accusing the other of violating the deal.

Analyst James Denselow of King's College in London says it would be a mistake for the Free Syrian Army to cut itself off from the U.N.-brokered cease-fire.

"I think they would be falling into a trap if they were to be the ones who unilaterally declared the cease-fire over, because that would allow Assad and the regime to say 'well, they broke it, we still believe in it,' despite the fact that they haven't really been properly observing it," Denselow said.

Cherif Bassiouni of DePaul University said Mr. Assad's government will not in the long run be shielded from prosecution.

"They should know that even though Russia and China are protecting them tomorrow, that if there is a commission that investigates what they're doing and has the evidence, they will not always be immune from prosecution in the future. And this has to be done now while the evidence is fresh,"  Bassiouni said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday he "demands" the Syrian government abide by its peace pledges. Speaking at a forum in Istanbul, Mr. Ban said the almost 300-member U.N. military observer team in Syria is not meant to play the role of "passive observer to unspeakable atrocities."

The U.N. chief also warned that more massacres such as the Houla incident "could plunge Syria into a catastrophic civil war ... from which the country would never recover."

Mark Snowiss

Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter.  He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: moderateGuy from: Henderson, NV
June 01, 2012 1:05 PM
Seeing and hearing Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice blather nonsensically this incoherent BS, almost makes you want to agree with the Russians.

by: edward m. from: burlington nc
June 01, 2012 9:19 AM
It is estimated that 10000 people have been killed so far. When will enough be enough? 100000? 1000000?I don't understand either Russia or China's stance. Human life obviously has no value in those countries. All these warnings about Civil war. What do people think has been happening, if not Civil war?

by: david lulasa from: tambua location
June 01, 2012 6:11 AM
it would have been better if medvedev and putin were chameleones..were able to change to where they are..they would be reminding each other what they have forgoten...they are forgeting that when they become poor,they will definately loose influence where its only force they used before..they never expect anyone to defend himself.and thats how civil war or any arfuement starts.

by: Barack Obama from: USA
June 01, 2012 4:00 AM
That's a real rubbish,I don't think the syria's operation is in responsablity of Russia,but really of America

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs