Syria is Officially in Civil War…Although the Opposition Denies It
On Tuesday, Herve Ladsous, the head of the United Nations’ peacekeeping operations, said that the conflict in Syria is now a full-scale civil war, with reports of shelling in Homs and throughout the country. Said Ladsous in a statement:
“Clearly what is happening is that the government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory, several cities to the opposition, and wants to retake control.
Ladsous’ statement seems an acknowledgement of what has been too long a reality, with over 10,000 killed since pro-democracy protests began in March of 2011. The Syrian state news agency, SANA, responded by blaming the violence on “armed terrorists,” as it has throughout the fifteen-month-long uprising: “Talk of civil war in Syria is not consistent with reality… What is happening in Syria is a war against armed groups that choose terrorism.”
Opposition Also Rejects Civil War Label
Writing in the Guardian, Ian Black observes that opposition is also rejecting the Ladsous’ statement. An opposition body, the Syrian Revolution General Commission, says that the UN’s statements “makes the killer and the victim equal and ignores all the massacres committed by the Assad regime” and also covers over “the real demands of the Syrian people who are only asking for freedom and dignity.”
Kieran Dwyer, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping department, said that Ladsous’ mention of civil war in Syria was based on the past five days’ events in Syria and an apparent upsurge in violence.
The BBC’s Jim Muir notes that the opposition is rejecting the “civil war” label as it puts them “on the same level” as the government. Indeed, the opposition describes itself as “still a peaceful civil uprising which is trying to defend itself against state violence, and that calling it ‘civil war’ is equating victim with killer.”
Clinton Says Russians Lying About Weapons Deliveries to Syria
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Russia has been shipping attack helicopters and lying about deliveries of weapons to Syria. The state-controlled arms trader for Russia contends that the sales are in keeping with international regulations and will continue as they are “unrelated” to the conflict; Clinton said that such claims are “patently untrue.”
UN monitors have filmed helicopters flying over Homs and said they saw fire in their wake.
Clinton’s statement that Russia has been lying about weapons deliveries to Syria is sure to escalate tentions further. Clinton has called for a “managed transition” according to which Assad would step aside, but any such plan requires the participation of Russia.
Today, Wednesday, the Syrian government announced that it has retaken the control of the western mountain town of Haffa from the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA). UN monitors had tried to visit Haffa on Tuesday but were shot at and were unable to proceed. The BBC’s Muir says that pre-regime villagers apparently attacked the UN convoy.
As Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, details, Syrians throughout the country describe seeing rockets fired from villages near the city of Aleppo. Christians are finding themselves “torn between supporting and opposing the regime”; displaced Sunni Muslims are already taking the homes of Christians in Homs and elsewhere. At least 83 civilians have reportedly been killed today.
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