September 29, 2012 · 0 Comments
The United States warned Iran to stop providing arms to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad even as it announced millions of dollars in non-lethal support for the opposition attempting to oust the government.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Syria‘s neighbors to take steps to prevent Iran from using their land and airspace to transport weapons to al-Assad‘s forces.
“The regime’s most important lifeline is Iran,” Clinton told reporters Friday at a gathering of the Friends of Syria, an ad hoc group meeting in the shadow of the U.N. General Assembly.
Clinton’s warning followed an admission, according to Iranian state-run media reports, by the commander of Iran‘s Revolutionary Guard that its elite Quds Force was operating inside Syria but not involved directly in military action.
“There is no longer any doubt that Tehran will do whatever it takes to protect its proxy and crony in Damascus,” she said.
Clinton announced the United States was donating $15 million in non-lethal support to unarmed Syrian opposition groups, bringing the total U.S. aid for the opposition to nearly $45 million.
The latest donation “translates into more than 1,100 sets of communications equipment, including satellite-linked computers, telephones, and cameras, as well as training for more than 1,000 activists, students, and independent journalists,” she said.
The United States also is donating an additional $30 million in humanitarian assistance, primarily in the form of food, water and medical supplies, Clinton said.
The news came as diplomats at the U.N.General Assembly decried the faliure of the Security Council to end the conflict that has left tens of thousands dead. Russia and China have resisted efforts by the Security Council to force an end to the fighting, saying the issue should be decided by Syrians.
Here are the latest developments in the more than 18-month conflict:
Syria’s chemical weapons a target?
Adnan Sillu, a former major general who says he was chief of staff of chemical warfare, also said Syria can easily transfer the weapons to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia organization that fought a border conflict with Israel in 2006.
Syrian opposition posted a series of videos on YouTube suggesting rebels are beginning to focus on where al-Assad‘s government stores its chemical weapons.
The videos were first uploaded in July. Narrators using Google Earth satellite imagery describe in detail several sites where they allege that chemical weapons and missiles are stored or manufactured.
There is no way to independently verify what the videos purport to show.
Sillu said moving the weapons would be easy for the government should they be at risk of falling into the rebels’ hands.
“They are artillery shells and rockets that can be moved easily to Hezbollah,” he told.
His comments follow word from U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that the Syrian governmenthas moved chemical weapons at various sites for security reasons.
There has been “limited movement” at Syria‘s major chemical storage sites, Panetta told reporters on Friday.
U.S. officials have said they believe that the stashes remain secured by the Syrian military.
Panetta said the United States and other countries are monitoring the sites.
Rebels fight for control of Syria’s largest city
Rebels battled government forces Saturday in the flashpoint city of Aleppo in what the opposition has described as a “decisive battle” to push out al-Assad‘s forces.
The see-saw fight for Aleppo, once considered an al-Assad stronghold, has continued nearly unabated since July, though the number of casualties has steadily increased.
The Syrian government claimed its forces killed and wounded dozens of “armed terrorists” gathered at a grocery store in Aleppo, Syrian state-run TV reported Saturday. Syrian forces also killed 15 fighters in a separate clash in Aleppo, according to state TV.
At least 73 people were killed in fighting across the country on Saturday, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria. Among those killed were 47 people in Damascus and its suburbs.
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that terrorists kidnapped a mufti, a religious official, on Friday and took him to Jordan, where they forced him to announce his defection. Sheikh Rizq Abazid was taken from his house in Daraa at gunpoint Friday, SANA reported.
CNN is unable to independently verify opposition and government claims of violence as al-Assad has severely limited the access of international journalists.
Background on the conflict
The Syrian conflict broke out in March 2011 after unarmed protesters, inspired by the success of popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, took to the streets demanding political reform and an end to four decades of rule by the Assad family.
The movement quickly devolved into an armed conflict after a brutal and continuing crackdown by regime forces.
Since the unrest began, more than 30,000 people have been killed, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
By Web Editor