Syrian Troops Clash with Rebels
January 30, 2012
By: Garrett Nada | Printer Friendly
Last week Syrian rebels from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) captured several suburbs just five miles outside of Damascus. According to Reuters, at dawn on January 30, government troops engaged the rebels in street battles in an attempt to flush the rebels out. The rebels have been risking larger scale clashes with the army, hoping to take and hold territory. Three weeks ago, the rebels were emboldened after taking the 40,000 person town of Zabadani.
The government has responded with even more brutal crackdowns. On January 27, activists claimed over 100 people died across the country in the bloodiest day to date since the start of the uprising last March. This included a massacre reported to the Associated Press by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, in which over 30 people, including small children, were killed. According to estimates by the United Nations, government forces have killed more than 5,400 since March 2011.
The continuing clashes and attacks on protesters convinced the Arab League to suspend its observer mission on January 29. According to Bloomberg, the Arab League sent a proposed a power-transfer plan for Syria to the United Nations (UN) that calls for a national unity government to be formed within two months to oversee the transition. Arab League representatives hope to meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss their plan. AFP reported on January 30, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "The Security Council must act and make clear to the Syrian regime that the world community views its actions as a threat to peace and security. The violence must end, so that a new period of democratic transition can begin.”
Russia and China have resisted taking strong action against Assad at the UN Security Council despite efforts by the European Union and the United States. In an e-mail to Bloomberg, Professor Paul Sullivan of Georgetown University wrote, “The clock is ticking. If it were not for Iranian and Russian help, Bashar would have been out already most likely.” Reuters reported that Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the Syrian government has agreed to Russian-brokered negotiations to resolve the crisis but the opposition’s Syrian National Council will not compromise with Assad. Walid al-Bunni, foreign affairs chief for the council, said, "We rejected the Russian proposal because they wanted us to talk with the regime while it continues the killings, the torture, the imprisonment."
Iran has changed its policy towards solving the Syrian crisis to an extent. For months, Iran offered unconditional support of Assad, but Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Sunday, “We think that Syria has to be given the choice of time so that by (that) time they can do the reforms.” Iran is in favor of constitutional reforms and holding an election.
For previous news on Syria, please see:
Syrian President Assad Vows to Crush Opposition
Associated Press - Activists report 'terrifying massacre' in Syria
Reuters - Assad troops fight back against Syria rebels
Bloomberg - Arab League Suspends Syrian Mission
Agence France-Presse - Clinton Urges Security Council to act on Syria