News / Middle East

Syria Crisis Deepens With Arms Race, Assad Gains

A boy walks on the rubble of buildings damaged by what activists said were missiles fired by Syrian Air Force fighter jets loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Salqin city, Idlib governate, May 28, 2013.
A boy walks on the rubble of buildings damaged by what activists said were missiles fired by Syrian Air Force fighter jets loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Salqin city, Idlib governate, May 28, 2013.
Al Pessin
It has been a tough couple of days for the Syria conflict, with announcements on arms for the rebels and the government, and more delays in the U.S.-Russian effort to convene a peace conference.  
 
Britain and France won a significant victory at a meeting of European Union foreign ministers Monday, with an agreement not to renew an embargo that prevented them from sending arms to the Syrian rebels.  EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton announced the decision after a day-long meeting in Brussels.
 
EU Arms Embargo for Syria

  • No longer forbids supplying arms to Syria's opposition forces
  • No immediate arms shipments are planned
  • Safeguards would ensure supplies are for protection of civilians
  • Arms embargo was part of package of sanctions imposed in 2011
  • EU plans further sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad's government
“Everybody is trying to work out how best to support the people of Syria, and how best to ensure that we get to a political solution as quickly as possible," she said. 
 
But the EU members agreed not to actually send any weapons to the rebels at least until they see whether the United States and Russia succeed in convening a peace conference.
 
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov responded to the EU decision on Tuesday, calling it “regrettable,” and he confirmed that his government will deliver new anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian government.
 
​He said Russia is providing defense to an established government based on an existing contract, and that the missiles would allow Damascus to respond to an air threat - a capability the rebels do not currently possess.  Analysts say the missiles are intended to deter any further Israeli airstrikes and any possible intervention from Europe or by the United States.
 
US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, May 27, 2013, in ParisUS Secretary of State John Kerry, right, meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, May 27, 2013, in Paris
x
US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, May 27, 2013, in Paris
US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, May 27, 2013, in Paris
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met in Paris, but were unable to confirm plans for the peace conference.  
 
Russia has gotten what it calls an agreement “in principle” from the Syrian government to send a representative.  But some opposition parties remain staunchly opposed to talking to the government and to any future role for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
 
Secretary Kerry confirmed that getting commitments from all the Syrian parties is the main stumbling block.
 
“We both want to make this conference happen, if possible, together with many other countries that have joined up. We talked about the participants, and that is an ongoing conversation," he said. 
 
Some analysts believe recent events may force the opposition’s hand.  
 
At the IHS Jane’s security firm, analyst David Hartwell says Assad has been strengthened in recent weeks by the Russian missiles, other weapons from Iran, support from Hezbollah and recent battlefield gains, combined with the opposition's disunity and concern among many Syrians about militant influence among the rebels.
 
“All of these factors appear to be coalescing at this moment in time to give him, or certainly give the appearance, that he can think about long-term survival," he said. 
 
Hartwell says confidence is up within the Assad regime, and it could press for more military advances in the coming days, including a possible assault on the country’s largest city, Aleppo.  
 
Syria-watcher Chris Doyle of the Council for Arab-British Understanding reluctantly agrees that Assad is in a strong enough position that he might survive politically, at least during a transition period.
 
“I think that cannot be ruled out, as distasteful as that is, given his record.  If it is symbolic, then maybe that is something that people will have to agree to, while holding their noses," he said. 
 
But that is not something much of the Syrian opposition is ready to do.  And Doyle says if plans for the peace conference falter and some EU countries do send weapons to the rebels, it will only make the humanitarian situation worse and the prospects of a political solution even more remote.
 

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
May 29, 2013 9:48 AM
What is the point of preferring one terrorist organisation to another? Assad is supported by hezbollah and the opposition is sponsored by muslim brotherhood, al qaeda, hamas etc all of which is a terrorist organization. One is lone ranger and the other is hydra-headed. What is the Western preference of al qaida to hezbollah? None of them is a friend of the west, and they have the same agenda. Their difference is that one is sunni and the other is shia. But their goal is elimination of everything western and Israel.

If the West is truly serious with liberation for minorities in Syria, all it needs do (as it has done) is instigate the war, set up standing army in the UN with a mandate to protect minorities. In a situation where extremism is the issue, to mandate the standing army to instill secularism while at the same time not stopping those who must adhere to their region - but ensure that no one is forced to embrace a religion they wouldn't. Then minorities everywhere will find some succor in the UN.

by: Igor from: Russia
May 29, 2013 12:27 AM
What a shameful decision taken by EU members! They have chosen to to arm the rebels although they know for sure that almost all the rebels are terrorists and led by terrorists. By such step they have sacrified the interests of Syrian people for their own dirty purpose. They hope that those terrorists will overthrow Syrian government and Syria will fall into chaos. Then they will have a pretext to send troops to invade Syria like Iraq, Afganistan...to create a puppet government hostile to Iran, Russia, ready to obey israel's order.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs