Assad Agrees to Pull Troops by April 10th
Despite Syrian state media’s announcement that the Friends of Syria meeting had failed, one outcome was clear: Annan sought U.N. Security Council support to impose a deadline for Bashar al Assad to withdraw his troops, and Assad agreed. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did not support the deadline, saying, “Ultimatums and artificial deadlines rarely help matters,” though he did add that Assad must take the first step in withdrawing troops. Syria’s ambassador to the U.N., Bashar Jaafari, affirmed Syria’s commitment to the agreement, but said he expects the same level of commitment to be shown by the opposition and its sponsors. However, the Gulf Arab states agreed on Sunday to pay the salaries and other costs of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA). Additionally, Annan told the council there has been “no progress” so far on reaching a ceasefire or implementing his six-point peace plan, as the violence continued to kill civilians in Idlib and Homs. The U.S. pledged an additional $12.2 million in humanitarian assistance to support international and NGO humanitarian partners.
Two opposing views about Assad’s stronghold emerged on Sunday: one, that he will still remain in power for the foreseeable future, and the other, that the regime is visibly weakening. Mike Rogers (R-MI), head of the House Intelligence committee said that there are no signs Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle is “crumbling.” Faedah M. Totah writes that with so much uncertainty about a post-Assad Syria, there have been more defections and splits in the Syrian National Council (SNC) when compared to the government. Paul Conroy opines that with the destruction of the house in Homs that international journalists were using as a communication hub, “the regime is now engaged in a manhunt to track, capture and destroy the remnants of that network.” On the other hand, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the sanctions are “beginning to have an effect,” and that the regime is “showing cracks.” Nicholas Kristof argues that even Assad’s “diehard loyalists” are starting to doubt the longevity of the regime.