Assad VP: Absolute Victory No Longer an Option
The U.S. Department of State called on both sides of the Syrian conflict to “stop unlawful attacks on civilians and comply with international law” on December 17. The call came after reports that a number of civilians had been killed or wounded in the Yarmouk district of Damascus, as a result of air raids and fighting between the government and the opposition. Hundreds of Palestinians fled Yarmouk refugee camp toward Lebanon, prompting a warning from the Syrian government to not assist the opposition in any way. Syrian Alawites have also been forced out of Idlib by members of Jabhat al-Nusra in recent days.
The European Union put “all options on the table to support the Syrian opposition,” including the possibility of supplying non-lethal military equipment or arms. However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron were not in agreement as to whether or not a standing arms embargo should be lifted to allow for such action. Thomas Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute released an op-ed highlighting the Obama administration’s dilemma in addressing Syria’s chemical weapons. Donnelly noted that despite the president’s declaration that movement of chemical weapons is a “red line,” it is “doubtful…that we have…a comprehensive understanding of Syria’s chemical capabilities.” He asserts that aside from a direct ground campaign, the U.S. has little capacity to actually police all of the chemical weapons in the country before they are dispersed to groups such as Hezbollah.
According to Lebanese publication Al-Akhbar, Syria’s vice president Farouk al-Sharaa publicly announced that the Syrian Army cannot defeat the armed rebels and the regime now seeks a negotiated settlement. Al-Sharaa expressed concern that the opposition would only topple the current regime by pushing “the country into chaos and a cycle of violence that has no end,” and that this was not a desirable outcome for anyone. In a recent video the chief of the Syrian intelligence’s public relations division,” Alaaddin al-Sabbagh, declared that he had defected from “the Assad criminal regime” and urged others to do the same.