Middle East

Viewpoints: Syria's Ongoing Crisis

Aleppo, Syria, on Dec. 26, 2011. (Photo: Freedom House)

France – Euronews, Sept. 3: President Bashar al-Assad has threatened retaliation against France, if it takes part in military strikes on his forces. … Meanwhile, the French prime minister has handed an intelligence report to MPs, which he says proves Assad was behind an alleged chemical attack. The nine-page document was drawn up by France’s military and foreign intelligence services. Jean-Marc Ayrault said Paris was determined to punish Assad, but not on its own: “There is no question of France acting alone. The president of the republic is working on persuading and bringing together a coalition as quickly as possible,” Ayrault said. … Turkey has confirmed it is ready to join in any coalition attack against Syrian forces.

Lebanon – The Daily Star, Sept. 3: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday that the use of force is only legal when it is in self-defense or with Security Council authorization, remarks that appear to question the legality of U.S. plans to strike Syria without U.N. backing. Ban was speaking to reporters after U.S. President Barack Obama won the backing of two top Republicans in Congress in his call for limited U.S. strikes on Syria to punish President Bashar al-Assad for his suspected use of chemical weapons against civilians on Aug. 21. "The use of force is lawful only when in exercise of self-defense in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations charter and/or when the Security Council approves of such action," Ban said. … Russia, backed by China, has used its veto power in the Security Council three times to block resolutions condemning Assad's government and threatening it with sanctions.

Palestine – Palestine News Network: Sept. 2: Arab League foreign ministers urged the international community and the United Nations to take "deterrent" action against the Syrian regime over its alleged use of chemical weapons. However, some influential members of the League, including Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia and Algeria, have expressed opposition to foreign military intervention. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal told the meeting, "Opposition to international action only encourages the [Syrian] regime to pursue its crimes." Egypt's foreign minister announced that his nation objected to "any aggression in Syria." The head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmed al-Jarba, told the meeting that the "war machine" of Assad must be stopped: "I am here before you today to appeal to your brotherly and humanitarian sentiments and ask you to back the international operation against the destructive war machine."

Qatar – Al Jazeera, Sept. 3: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday that refusal to launch a limited, punitive military strike on Syria would undermine U.S. credibility, including its pledge to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testified in support of President Barack Obama’s push for the United States to intervene in Syria’s ongoing two-year civil war. "This is not the time for arm-chair isolationism," Kerry said. "This is not the time to be spectators to slaughter." … During a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House, Obama said he was confident Congress would vote in favor of military action and said the United States had a broad plan to help the rebels defeat Syrian government forces. "What we are envisioning is something limited. It is something proportional. It will degrade Assad's capabilities," Obama told reporters. "At the same time we have a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition."

Saudi Arabia – Arab News, Sept. 3: Sweden on Tuesday became the first European Union country to announce it will give asylum to all Syrian refugees who apply. “All Syrian asylum seekers who apply for asylum in Sweden will get it,” Annie Hoernblad, the spokeswoman for Sweden’s migration agency, told AFP. “The agency made this decision now because it believes the violence in Syria will not end in the near future.” … Since 2012, Sweden has taken in some 14,700 asylum seekers from Syria. Swedish Migration Minister Tobias Billstroem called on other countries to recognize their duty to help the Syrian people: “No other conflict on earth today is as terrible as the long and bloody conflict in Syria. That should make many politicians, inside and outside the E.U., think about our responsibilities.”

Singapore – Channel NewsAsia, Sept. 4: The Syrian opposition said it feared a fresh chemical attack by President Bashar al-Assad's regime, after three convoys believed to be filled with chemical weapons were spotted. "We have had recent information that there were three convoys loaded with chemical weapons [that] left their locations, and now we can confirm that two of them have reached their final destination," opposition spokesman Khaled Saleh told a press conference in Istanbul.

TurkeyWorld Bulletin, Sept. 3: Yalçin Akdogan, chief adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, commented on concerns that the Syrian regime might attack Turkey in the face of a possible Western-led intervention in the country, saying on Monday that such an attack from neighboring Syria would be “suicide.” “Assad attacking Turkey would be madness or suicide because that would mean attacking a NATO member state." … Ankara, one of the harshest critics of the Syrian leader, has conducted military drills and contacted world leaders to stop the bloodshed in the country after the Assad regime's chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 and injured many more in the suburbs of Damascus. As part of its plan to prevent violence in the country, Turkey has started to ready itself for a possible intervention in Syria by increasing its military drills in its southern and southeastern border provinces.

United Kingdom – BBC, Sept. 4: Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the U.S. and its allies against taking one-sided action in Syria. He said any military strikes without U.N. approval would be "an aggression." … Putin said Russia did not rule out supporting a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing force, if it was proved "beyond doubt" that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons. On Tuesday evening, members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations agreed on a draft resolution backing the use of military force. The measure, to be voted on next week, sets a time limit of 60 days on any operation. According to the draft resolution, the operation would be restricted to a "limited and tailored use of the United States Armed Forces against Syria," and prohibit the use of any ground forces. … Putin was speaking ahead of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, which opens on Thursday and is supposed to concentrate on the global economy, but now looks likely to be dominated by the crisis in Syria.

United States – The New York Times, Sept. 3: As the United States and its allies struggled for a course of action to punish the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the United Nations said the number of civilians who had fled to neighboring countries had surpassed 2 million—a new milestone in what it called “the great tragedy of this century, a disgraceful humanitarian calamity.” Fear of Western air strikes in the past week was a factor in an exodus that continued to gather momentum, inflicting acute social strain and political tension on receiving countries, António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, said in an interview in Geneva on Monday. … “These countries need massive support from the international community to be able to cope with the challenge,” Mr. Guterres said, emphasizing the acute strain the refugee influx has placed on their economies and social resources. “If that support does not materialize, the risks of instability in the Middle East will dramatically increase.”