Syria Violence Continues; Countries Step Up
The video footage above from Damascus “shows thousands of anti-government protesters under the snow chanting ‘with our souls and blood we sacrifice for you Homs’.” The protest in the capital began during a funeral procession held for three people killed by security forces. An activist who witnessed the violence said “the procession numbered around 15,000,” the largest in the capital since the 11-month-old uprising against President Assad began. However, despite Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun‘s call on all sides in Syria to stop the violence, security forces still fired into the funeral procession, spurring a protest into the capital. Jun said, “China supports the reforms under way in Syria and the significant measures taken by the country in this field,” referring to the parliamentary elections coming up. President Bashar Al Assad vowed to “advance the political reform process according to a precise plan and timetable,” and said the events in Syria were ”aimed at dividing the country and delivering a blow to its geopolitical position and historical role in the region.”
In other news, Iraq announced it has tightened security along its borders with Syria to prevent arms smuggling. ”Necessary measures have been taken to consolidate control over the borders with Syria which is witnessing turbulence that encourages infiltration and all kinds of smuggling, especially arms,” said a statement from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki‘s office. James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that al Qaeda in Iraq may have been responsible for bombings in Damascus and Aleppo.
Meanwhile, as Jun continued to call for peace on both sides and said “The sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity of Syria must be respected by all sides and by the international community,” U.S. defense officials said there are drones monitoring Syria’s situation. The officials said the drones are not preparations for a military intervention, but rather, “the administration of President Barack Obama is hoping to use the visual evidence and intercepts of Syrian government and military communications in an effort to ‘make the case for a widespread international response.’”