The Obama administration’s initiative to set up a new Syrian opposition council, possibly to serve as an interim government following the fall of the Assad regime,appeared to have failed on Thursday before the convention in Qatar even began.
One day before the official start of the conference, at which Syrian opposition activists selected by the State Department were to meet, ”three of the dissident bodies included in the US-backed initiative refused to attend,” diplomats and opposition figures told the Daily Telegraph.
“There are too many people against this initiative for it to work now,” said a western diplomat who chose to remain anonymous.
News of the US’s latest failure in solving the Syrian crisis came as Turkey said it was aiming to deploy NATO’s Patriot missiles on its border with Syria as a response to the alleged cross-border threat posed from Syria. But talk of that threat is incomplete without mentioning the fact that Turkey has been aiding the rebels and aiming for regime change in Syria.
This is only the most recent failure in a catalogue of past US failures to gain control of Syria, going back several decades. But it seemed doomed to failure from the beginning, as the technocrats in Washington have very little local knowledge of the internal dynamics in Syria.
Many opposition activists not included in the Doha meeting expect the effort to be another failed attempt to unify the opposition.
“Right now, the opposition groups are very vague and there’s no agreement on who’s representing who and what and where,” one opposition activist told The Cablelast week. “Right now there is a lot of risk that this will be another failed approach that will not achieve anything.”
In an interview with Russia Today, the full version of which will be broadcast Friday, Syrian President Bashar Assad has spurned the call by British leaders to accept an offer of exile, saying he has no intention of leaving.
“I was not made by the West to go to the West or to any other country,” Assad said, adding “I am Syrian. I was made in Syria. I have to live in Syria and die in Syria.” British PM David Cameron said Assad would be given “safe passage” out of Syria if it meant an end to the civil war.
Assad also warned that Syria’s status as a secular state was vital for regional stability, cautioning that if the Islamist factions in the rebellion took over “it will have a domino effect that will affect the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific.”
He also sought to downplay the risk of NATO intervention in the war, saying that the “price of this invasion if it happened is going to be more than the whole world can afford.” Though Russia and China have blocked any resolutions supporting war in the UN Security Council, NATO is said to be mulling deployments of Patriot missiles along the border to impose a de facto no-fly zone.
Two Iranian jets fired on an unarmed U.S. predator drone over international waters, a Pentagon spokesperson announced on Thursday. The incident, which occurred last week but has just been reported, “raises fresh concerns within the Obama administration about Iranian military aggression in crucial Gulf oil shipping lanes,” a CNN report said.
Iran has previously threatened to shut down the nearby Strait or Hormuz, through which 20 percent of the world’s oil supply travels.
Above, I’ve laid a small red line over where the drone might have been. U.S. officials told CNN the drone was over international waters somewhere east of Kuwait; Londoño reports it was 16 miles from Iran’s coast. According to international law, Iranian nautical sovereignty extends 12 miles out from its coastline. A smaller blue circle indicates Bahrain, where the U.S. bases its Fifth Fleet, a substantial military presence in the Gulf.
That red line is indeed international airspace, but it’s also very close to Iranian soil. This of course doesn’t make it okay for Iran to try to shoot the drone down, but it’s worth considering how that proximity might be perceived by an Iranian leadership that alreadyfeels under siege and threatened by the much more powerful United States.
Last year, a U.S. drone crashed 140 miles within Iran’s eastern border.
Indicating it has no intention of letting up pressure on Tehran, the US puts sanctions on 4 individuals, 5 entities for censorship.
PHOTO: REUTERS/JASON REED
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration signaled Thursday that it had no intention of letting up on sanctions pressure against Iran following the reelection of US President Barack Obama.
The United States announced it had sanctioned four individuals and five entities for censorship, including jamming satellite broadcasts and blocking Internet access, in the first foreign policy move since Tuesday’s vote.
Those designated include Tehran’s Communication and Information Technology Minister Reza Taghipour, and its Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
“These actions underscore the administration’s ongoing commitment to hold Iranian government officials and entities responsible for the abuses carried out against their own citizens,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
“With the measures we are taking today, we draw the world’s attention to the scope of the regime’s insidious actions, which oppress its own people and violate Iran’s own laws and international obligations,” she said.
While the Obama administration is indicating that sanctions will continue, it will also likely be making a major overture toward Iran to reinvigorate its diplomatic efforts, according to former White House Iran adviser Dennis Ross.
“We will see some kind of significant diplomatic initiative by the president, by the Obama administration, on the nuclear issue with the Iranians,” Ross said during an event Thursday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where he is now a counselor – exploring the implications of Obama’s reelection for US Middle East Policy.
“No president is going to end up using force without having demonstrated unmistakably to the world and the American public that he’s exhausted all the possibilities for diplomatic negotiations,” Ross said.
There has been speculation that America, which has so far been holding talks with Iran as part of the P5+1 framework that also includes Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, would hold direct talks with Tehran.
But some Iranian officials, reacting to Obama’s reelection on Tuesday, said that negotiations in the face of increasingly tightened sanctions would be unlikely to make progress.
“After all this pressure and crimes against the people of Iran, relations with America cannot be possible overnight and Americans should not think they can hold our nation ransom by coming to the negotiating table,” Sadeq Larijani, head of the Iranian judiciary, was quoted as saying by IRNA news agency.
“Four years ago, Obama... announced he would extend the hand of cooperation to Iran,” he said. “But he pursued a different path and imposed unprecedented sanctions and it is natural the Iranian people will never forget such crimes.”