May 29, 2013 | Scott Lucas in EA Live, EA Middle East & Turkey, Middle East

Bashar al-Assad & Vladimir PutinInternational politics took over the headlines on Tuesday, with Russia putting out a response to the European Union’s lifting of the arms embargo on the insurgency. Moscow issued a statement that, defying Western pressure, it is sending “weapons systems” to Damascus to prevent “hotheads” taking over the conflict — a reference to the European decision.

There was confusion, however, over whether Russia was declaring the provision of S-300 missile systems to Syria. We look even wider in an analysis; has Moscow been unsettled and contained by Western pressure? Or, through deliberate ambiguity, is it successfully rebuffing the US-led demands that it step away from President Assad?

“White House Asks for Plans for No-Fly Zones”

Two Obama Administration officials have told the on-line newspaper The Daily Beast that the White House has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for a no-fly zone inside Syria. The request was made just before Secretary of State John Kerry toured the Middle East last week, promoting an international “peace” conference in Geneva next month.

The officials said, while the dual-track approach was developing, no decisions on use of force have been made:

    The White House is still in contemplation mode but the planning is moving forward and it’s more advanced than it’s ever been. All this effort to pressure the regime is part of the overall effort to find a political solution, but what happens if Geneva fails? It’s only prudent to plan for other options. On 8 May, the National Security Council Principals Committee — the second-highest body in the Administration for foreing policy — told several agencies to consider the pros and cons of arming “vetted and moderate elements” of the insurgency, and formal recognition of the Syrian National Coalition as the government of Syria. Pentagon spokesman Dave Lapan subsequently told The Daily Beast: “There is no new planning effort underway. The Joint Staff, along with the relevant combatant commanders, continue to conduct prudent planning for a range of possible military options.”

Opposition Groups Denounce National Coalition

Amid the failure of the Syrian National Coalition to agree on an expanded leadership in a week-long meeting in Turkey, other opposition groups have put out a bitter denunciation of the umbrella organisation.

Four groups — the Syrian Revolution General Commission, the Local Coordination Committees in Syria, the Syrian Revolution Coordinators’ Union, and the Supreme Council for the Leadership of the Syrian Revolution — declared:

    We have waited in vain for many months for the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SC) to take concrete steps, and offered its leadership multiple chances to do so. However, the reality is that there is no doubt that the SC’s leadership has failed to fulfill its responsibility to represent the great Syrian people’s revolution at the organizational, political, and humanitarian levels.    The SC’s continued failure, particularly in the General Assembly, during the last week of meetings in Istanbul, deepens our conviction that the SC, in its current form, is unable to fulfill its obligations due to the ongoing discord among the different parties represented. This negativity has led to the blatant interference of international and regional parties without respect to the national will….

    Given the SC’s dysfunction, we feel compelled to re-state our national responsibility as a revolutionary force, to honor the sacrifices of our people, and to fulfill their revolutionary aspirations, particularly in light of the challenges posed by the [proposed international] Geneva 2 conference and the decision-making process regarding the future of our nation and the region. The four groups rejected the proposed expansion of the Coalition as “no more than a feeble attempt to add persons and groups that have no real impact on the revolution”. They concluded, “We consider this statement to be a final warning to the SC, for the Syrian people have spoken.”


The Local Coordination Committees claims that 112 people were killed on Tuesday, including 35 in Damascus and its suburbs and 22 in Aleppo Province.