No Clear Plan for Syria with U.N. Mission Suspended
The U.N. suspended its observer mission to Syria Saturday, citing escalating violence that has impeded its work and threatened its monitors. The mission’s chief, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, said the roughly 300 observers will remain in Syria indefinitely, however, and the situation will be reviewed daily in the hopes of resuming patrols in the near future. The White House responded saying only that it is consulting with its international partners to determine the next steps.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that as of Saturday around 1,000 families are trapped in Homs as the government intensifies its bombardment of the city. Also, U.S. intelligence reports indicate that a Russian cargo ship currently en route to Syria contains weapons and possibly a small contingent of troops. The belief is that they are intended to fortify the Russian naval base in Syria.
Saturday also marked day two of a meeting of opposition leaders held in Istanbul aimed at drafting a declaration of principles for a future Syrian government. Hosted by the Syrian National Council, the meeting assembled every major opposition group in Syria except the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, and also had representatives from a number of Western and Arab countries. The declaration, if achieved, will be the basis for a future Arab League conference in Cairo.
Meanwhile, the debate over the strength of the Assad regime continues. An anonymous Slate Magazine correspondent describes opposition forces as closing in on Damascus, adding “the regime no longer has the military capacity to crush the rebellion everywhere at once.” Others, such as David Rohde say rebel forces and the military are locked in “a bloody stalemate” that, with no where else to go, will only destabilize the countries around them. The Economist describes the surprising successes of opposition forces, but argues they are no match for the level of brutality the regime is willing to go to, adding there are reports that recent massacres may be part of a plan to “clear” some villages to create a “rump state” that would be easier to defend.