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McCain and Graham: Send Arms to Syrian Opposition; Palmyra Under Siege

McCain and Graham: Send Arms to Syrian Opposition; Palmyra Under Siege

Two Republican Senators, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have called for the U.S. to arm the Syrian opposition on the grounds that its members “deserved to be armed” and that doing so would help the U.S. in its efforts to weaken Iran. Both senators are on the Senate Armed Services Committee and made their comments while on a visit to Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

As the New York Times notes, Iran provides Syria with financial and military support and has been a staunch support of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad during the nearly year-long bloody conflict. Assad belongs to the Alawites, a Shi’ite Muslim sect that is a minority in predominantly Sunni Syria. McCain also pointed out that Russia, a long-time ally of Syria, has been providing Syria with arms. The U.S. would not, he said, have to send the weapons directly but could so do through “third world countries” and the Arab League.

If the U.S. were to send arms to the Syrian opposition, it would put itself at the forefront of efforts to remove Assad from power and set the U.S. even more at odds with Russia and China. Two weeks ago, both countries vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that called for Assad to step down. China has expressed its continued support for Assad; on Saturday, Chinese deputy foreign minister Zhai Jun met with the Syrian president and said that, while “deeply concerned by the escalating crisis he believed that “the Chinese experience shows a nation cannot develop without stability.” China, which has met with three moderate figures of the Syrian opposition, is backing Assad’s call for a February 26 referendum on a draft of the country’s constitution that calls for an end to five decades of one-party rule under the Ba’ath Party.

Violence Rages Over the Weekend; Egypt Withdraws Ambassador

Shortly after Zhai’s meeting with Assad, Syria forces fired on mourners at a funeral for three men killed on Friday in the Damascus suburb of Douma; at least one person was killed and, according to the Syrian Revolution Co-ordination Union, four wounded including a woman who was shot in the head. Thousands reportedly protested in Damascus on Saturday, despite scattered gunfire.  Activists report that the Syrian army has been laying siege to the ancient city of Palmyra and has been shooting at anything that moves from the historical ruins, which are a UNESCO heritage site dating back to Roman times and, prior to the start of the uprising in March of 2011, a key tourist attraction.

Also on Saturday, two Iranian warships docked at the Syrian port city of Tartus. Russia maintains a naval station there that is its only military installation outside its own territories.

Egypt withdrew its ambassador to Syria on Sunday. Ambassador Shukri Ismael will now remain in Cairo until further notice, a significant decision:  Syria and Egypt shared the same flag for three years until 1961. A reduced diplomatic staff will remain in Damascus. Tunisia, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations have already reduced diplomatic ties to Syria.

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Photo of the theatre in Palmyra by isawnyu

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3:05AM PST on Feb 25, 2012

Taliban? Not a nation.....and have never attacked US - until US invaded Afghanistan and even then only attacked US troops on their soil, not the US mainland. The US also armed other tribes in Afghanistan in the 80's - to fight a proxy war against Russia - and not one of them have attacked US.

2:06PM PST on Feb 24, 2012

May be it would be better for the sake of peace to send them both to stay there as a live shield
and to speed up peace negotiation? It's very simple to have other people starting hating and keeling each other and it's really smart to "help" them with sending more weapons instead of
preventing their fight.

12:57PM PST on Feb 24, 2012

Shelia H, you forget something, in the 80's we armed the taliban, whats happening today, we're fighting them today, so how soon would we be fighting syrians

2:42PM PST on Feb 22, 2012

Charity Medecins Sans Frontiere/Doctors Without Borders reports that in Syria, the mere possession of medical drugs and materials, such as gauze, is considered a crime;

http://www.msf.org.uk/Syria_repression_20120208.news

10:38AM PST on Feb 22, 2012

Part 3.

The 1982 massacre in Hama, in which 20, 30, 40,000 people died (no-one knows for sure) was not reported in the west till much later. After the massacres in Rwanda, and in Bosnia and Srebrenica in the 1990’s, under the eyes of the UN peacekeepers, the world vowed NEVER AGAIN. Now, in the 21st century, with the aid of technology, we can witness in realtime what these people are suffering and we know what is coming next. Are we going to sit back and twiddle our thumbs yet again?

We DO have an obligation in international law to act. And act we must. The UN’s Responsibility to Protect states that it is every state's responsibility to protect its citizens from "genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity." If a state fails to do so, or is committing those crimes itself, the document says, it then becomes the responsibility of the international community to protect that state's population in accordance with Chapter VII of the UN Charter, as the state is no longer upholding its responsibilities. Chapter VII includes use of military force by the international community if peaceful measures prove inadequate.

Do not let your fear of the unknown get in the way of your humanity. There is nothing to fear from the Syrian people.

10:36AM PST on Feb 22, 2012

Part 2

“If we look to the other Muslim nations, we once helped, they are shooting at US! Give weapons so they can turn on us....pure madness!” Remind me please, which other Muslim NATIONS are shooting at us? Or, for that matter, have EVER shot at us? Errr,… nope, …not one. Or did I miss something? Me-thinks the boot is somewhat on the other foot.

So we invite Bashar to step down - that must have prompted a guffaw of laughter in his palace up on the hill. But let us suppose for a moment that he does – what difference do you think that will make? He is just a front-man for his military, who are far more brutal and blood-thirsty than he is, so nothing will change. Every single one of them has to go or the bloodshed and massacres will continue. Do you really think the protesters can achieve that with a few ancient rifles?

28,000 innocent civilians live in Baba Amr and cannot escape. The army is surrounding the district. Following the continuous bombing of Homs over many months and after the heavy pounding that’s been going on for 2 weeks now, they will move to the next stage – going in with the tanks and armoured vehicles to slaughter every man, woman and child, then flatten the buildings on top of them and bull-doze them into the ground, a whole district wiped off the face of the earth, so no one will ever know how many died – just like I witnessed in Hama.

10:33AM PST on Feb 22, 2012

Part 1

To Lynda D.,
“But to give them aid or weapons....cannot turn out good.” Really? REALLY? Sending them medical supplies and food cannot turn out good? So tell me, how does that work then? So, next time a crazy lets loose with an automatic in a school, we don’t send in the medics and the police to help, “because it cannot turn out good”?

The people of Baba Amr only have a doctor, a dentist and a vetinarian trying to treat the wounded with almost no supplies, many dying that would have survived with proper equipment. Take a look at this, the outcome of a woman 8 months pregnant shot in the abdomen ;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZsiqitIEJE

Can you still say we should not send them aid?

The term “civil war” pre-supposes a parity of fire-power on both sides. With one side armed to the teeth with the latest Russian equipment, and the other side having not much more than a few ancient rifles, there clearly is no parity of power. This, then, by definition, is not a civil war. It is a massacre. Remember, this began with the regime firing on peaceful unarmed demonstrators, and the vast majority of the activists and all the civilians are still unarmed, even the deserters who have formed the Free Syrian Army don’t have enough weapons to go round, however ancient they may be.

“If we look to the other Muslim nations, we once helped, they are shooting at US! Give weapons so they can turn on us....pure mad

5:04AM PST on Feb 22, 2012

Today we are mourning the loss of reknowned American war correspondent, Marie Colvin, who worked for The Times in UK, killed, along with a French photographer, by rockets as they escaped from a building which had just been bombed.

Read this report from anouther journalist who left Homs on 2nd Feb, of the injuries he witnessed and the attempts to save lives while he was there, "wading in blood...";

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/21/homs-snipers-target-anyone

Just try, for a few moments, to put yourselves in the shoes of those innocent civilans trapped in the midst of this. Would you not be praying that someone, somewhere would do something to put a stop to this suffering? If this was bad, it is 10 times worse now since the main onslaught started a couple of weeks ago. We now read that Assad has amassed his troups around Baba Amr with their tanks and armoured vehicles, and we know, and the people of Homs know, what is coming next. It will be Hama all over again. They will move in, house to house, and slaughter everyone they find, then flatten the city on top of them, men, women, children, babies, so that no-one will ever know for sure how many people have died. While we sit back and watch and dither? Is that OK with you? Another Hama? Another Bosnia? Another Srebrenica? 'Cos it sure as heck isn't OK with me, no, NOT IN MY NAME.

11:03AM PST on Feb 21, 2012

Believe it or not, this is a civil war within the walls of Syria. We do NOT have an obligation to stop a civil war nor aid them in the war. We can Push the United Nations to get Bashir to step down, as this is a blood bath and he is to blame, has been to blame since he became president of his country. He is a warmonger. But to give them aid or weapons....cannot turn out good. If we look to the other Muslim nations, we once helped, they are shooting at US! Give weapons so they can turn on us....pure madness!

10:51AM PST on Feb 21, 2012

Watch this video from the brave British-Syrian reporter Danny, on his return to UK;

http://news.sky.com/home/world-news/article/16174436

He is pleading for support, for a more level playing field. At least give them the means to defend themselves. To do nothing makes us complicit in the killing. Enough sitting by and twiddling our thumbs in agonised frustration. DO SOMETHING, PLEASE!!!

Safe areas in the north which Turkey has offered to protect. Humanitarian corridors to get medical aid and food in, and the badly injured out for treatment. And yes, ammunition and weapons to let them at least protect the civilians and themselves, but better still, to make them a credible force against the onslaught. DOING NOTHING IS NOT AN OPTION. The people of the world want to see action from their governments. The time for dithering and talking has long passed. Yes, action within the law (unlike in Iraq), but there are plenty of international laws to cover the protection of a civilian population. WE HAVE THE LEGAL COVER AND THE RESPONSIBLILTY TO ACT.

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