Syria: NATO intervention next?
With a growing number of defections in the Syrian army, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is taking control of territory in places like Jabal al-Zawiyah in the northwestern province of Idlid, in Zabadani just 20 kilometers from Damascus, and in Douma, one of the biggest suburbs outside the tightly-controlled capital. On Jan. 25, Dr. Abd-al-Razzaq Jbeiro, secretary general of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, was shot dead while traveling on the Halab-Damascus highway in a vehicle "clearly marked with the Red Crescent emblem," according to a statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Also that day, Rev. Basilious Nasser of the Greek Orthodox Church was killed in fighting in the city of Hama. Syria's state news agency blamed an "armed terrorist group" for the killing, while opposition activists said he was shot by a regime sniper. (AlJazeera, NYT, Jan. 25)
The UK, joined by the US and France, on Jan. 24 harshly criticized Russia for supplying weapons to Syria. "We are concerned about the supply of weapons into Syria, whether sales to the government or illegal smuggling to the regime or opposition," Britain's UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told the Security Council. Without mentioning Russia by name, Lyall Grant cited a media interview in which a Moscow official said his country's arms deliveries to Damascus had no effect on the situation there. "We fundamentally disagree," he said. "It is glaringly obvious that transferring weapons into a volatile and violent situation is irresponsible and will only fuel the bloodshed." (Reuters, Jan. 24)
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) on Jan 13 interviewed an anonymous 22-year-old spokesman for the Local Coordinating Committee of the opposition in Jabal al-Zawiya—who explicitly called for NATO intervention:
Assad will not give up peacefully. He knows nothing but killing—he was brought up on it. No one can stop it apart from NATO. The Arab League is silently supporting Assad; Iran, Russia and China are also supporting him. We want NATO intervention like in Libya, and anyone in the opposition who isn’t openly asking for it does not represent the citizens of Syria. The opposition are sitting in their five-star hotels while we are dying.
People want military intervention, anything that can get rid of this man [Assad]. The role of the opposition should be only to convey what the citizens are saying in the demonstrations, and if the people are asking for international intervention then the opposition needs to ask for it, too.
We are the revolution, and we are asking for international protection. We are dying, and if we have to die, then let [Assad] die with us. Some say it is a betrayal to ask for NATO to get involved, but it's a bigger betrayal to allow your citizens to be killed.
IWPR said the interviewee's name was "withheld for reasons of security."