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U.S. shuts embassy in Syria as Obama tells Assad to go
Russia defends veto of U.N. bid to halt strife
An international standoff on Syria intensified Monday as the U.S. shuttered its embassy in Damascus and Britain recalled its ambassador amid an increase in violence that many now believe is headed for full-blown civil war.
President Obama asserted that a peaceful resolution to the 11-month-old conflict should and could be negotiated without foreign military intervention.
But U.S. and British moves to sever direct diplomatic ties with Damascus signal a previously unseen eagerness by the two Western powers to take unilateral action in the crisis after expressing outrage at the vetoes by China and Russia on Saturday of a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an end to the bloodshed.
In Syria, at least 23 people were killed Monday on the third day of intensified artillery shelling of the restive city of Homs, according to wire reports citing activists and human rights groups close to the violence. The United Nations has estimated that more than 5,400 people have been killed in Syria since March.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday condemned the West’s reaction to his country’s veto of the U.N. resolution, telling reporters in Moscow that some comments made by Western officials were “indecent and bordering on hysteria” and “aimed at suppressing what is actually happening.”
The Russian reaction was largely dismissed by U.S. and British officials, who embraced an aggressive tone toward Syrian President Bashar Assad for allowing his military forces to crack down so viciously on protesters.
“This is not going to be a matter of if,” the president said. “It’s going to be a matter of when.”
Some analysts, however, say it may be awhile, given the strength of Syria’s military forces, the willingness of Mr. Assad to use them to crush dissent, and the scattered nature of the armed resistance that opposition groups have begun to show.
With outside pressure having failed to stop the crackdown, the international community is faced with “the hard realization that it’s going to be a war and it’s going to be decided on the battlefield,” said Joshua Landis, who heads the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.
“The opposition has been growing stronger and stronger, but it is based on local militias that have been organizing on a very town-by-town basis,” he said. “They’re working on their own time schedules and under their own command, and there isn’t a lot of coordination.”
The lack of cohesion has given the advantage to Syrian forces that have shown no mercy, attacking residential areas and firing shells into a makeshift medical clinic in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, where more than 220 people have been killed during recent days.
Nabil Elaraby, secretary-general of the Arab League, issued a statement Monday saying he is “extremely alarmed” that government forces are using heavy weapons on their own citizens.
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About the Author
Guy Taylor rejoined The Washington Times in 2011 as the State Department correspondent.
As a freelance journalist, Taylor’s work was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Fund For Investigative Journalism, and his stories appeared in a variety publications, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to Salon, Reason, Prospect Magazine of London, the Daily Star of Beirut, the ...
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