Clinton defuses military intervention talk on Syria
|U.S. Senator John McCain (L) speaks as Senator Joseph Lieberman (R) looks on during a press conferences at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur on May 31, 2012.|
"It's time to act. It's time to give the Syrian opposition the weapons in order to defend themselves. It's not a fair fight," the Republican McCain told reporters in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.
McCain attacked Russia and China for opposing aggressive action on Syria, and the US administration of President Barack Obama – who defeated the Republican in the 2008 election – for not acting more forcefully on the issue.
"It is shameful that the United Nations Security Council should again be hindered by Russia and China, by their vetoes for any significant action against Syria," he said.
"It is also embarrassing that the United States of America refuses to show leadership and come to the aid of the Syrian people."
Lieberman, a staunch supporter of Israel, said: "In my opinion this will not get better until the rest of the world at least gives the arms to the Syrian freedom fighters with which they can defend themselves and their families."
U.S. Republicans and hawks have stepped up their campaign against Obama's handling of the Syrian crisis in a bid to score political points ahead of November's presidential elections.
The strategy is to portray Obama as weak, despite serious misgivings in Washington that it can ill-afford to engage in another Middle Eastern conflict.
Rice: U.S. ready to act on Syria outside UN?
The U.S. has hinted at taking actions against the Syrian regime bypassing the authority of the UN Security Council. This comes as pressure is piling up on Damascus following massacre in Houla that claimed over 100 lives.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice has said that if the council does not take swift action to pressure Syrian authorities to end 14-month crackdown on the anti-government uprising, the Security Council members may have no choice but to consider acting outside the UN.
“Members of the international community are left with the option only of having to consider whether they are prepared to take actions outside of the Annan plan and the authority of this council,” Rice said on Wednesday after the 15-member council met in a closed door session to discuss last week’s massacre.
The United Nations is conducting its own investigation of who exactly is responsible for the bloodshed in the town of Houla. However the U.S. and its allies seem to have come to their own conclusion, saying that the Assad government is solely responsible for the violence.
Clinton defuses military intervention talk on Syria: Not so fast Ms. Rice!
Speaking to Danish students, Clinton got tough questions on what might motivate the United States and other nations to take military action in Syria, where President Bashar Assad is battling a 14-month-old anti-government uprising.
However, Clinton rehearsed U.S. arguments against armed intervention for now in contrast with Libya, where Western-led air strikes last year helped bring an end to Muammar Gaddafi's rule.
Clinton said Syria had a more diverse society with greater ethnic divisions, no unified opposition, stronger air defenses and a much more capable military than Libya's.
Above all, she stressed there was no international support because of Russian and Chinese opposition at the UN Security Council, where they have twice vetoed resolutions on Syria.
Clinton's remarks sought to defuse talk of military intervention after U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice warned Washington might pursue action outside of the UN if Russia and China do not come on board.
That comment prompted France to reiterate its support for any action within the UN framework, hosing down the prospects of unilateral action by Western powers.
U.S. envoy: NATO action in Syria not on the table
NATO military action in Syria is not on the table either despite the Houla massacre, the U.S. envoy to the alliance said Thursday.
NATO allies have neither discussed an intervention in Syria nor made any military planning to stop the killing in that country, said U.S. ambassador Ivo Daalder.
Daalder noted that the alliance launched its air war in Libya last year after three conditions were fulfilled: a "demonstrable need" to intervene, support from nations in the region, and a UN Security Council mandate.
"With respect to a demonstrable need, clearly when government forces are attacking civilians with artillery and tanks, there is a need to bring that to an end. That was true in Libya and that is true in Syria," he said.
But there is neither regional support nor a UN mandate to act militarily in Syria.
"So under those circumstances, the NATO countries understand that the issue of military intervention, which is also always complex, is not right now on the table when it comes to Syria," Daalder said.
Free Syrian Army: No deadline
In a sign of further division among Syrian rebels, Free Syrian Army (FSA) chief Colonel Riyadh Asaad dismissed earlier reports that his group had given the regime a deadline until Friday to halt the violence.
Asaad said no order was given, instead calling on UN special envoy Kofi Annan to declare his six-point peace plan a failure.
"There is no deadline, but we want Kofi Annan to issue a declaration announcing the failure of this plan so that we would be free to carry out any military operation against the regime," Asaad told Al Jazeera, adding that the rebel forces had so far honored their commitments to the plan.
The FSA reportedly released a statement earlier granting the regime a deadline to adhere to Annan's plan or it will resume attacks.
"If the Syrian regime does not meet the deadline by Friday midday, the command of the Free Syrian Army announces that it will no longer be tied by any commitment to the Annan plan ... and our duty will be ... to defend civilians," a FSA statement said.
Insurgent attacks have continued despite the FSA's stated commitment to the ceasefire, highlighting the deep divisions and lack of coordination among rebel groups, many of which appear to be operating independently and for different goals.
World powers disagree
Russia's position on Syria will not shift under pressure from foreign states, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said on Thursday.
"Russia's position is well-known. It is balanced and consistent," Interfax quoted spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying. "So it is hardly appropriate to talk about this position changing under someone's pressure."
The United States responded to Russia's refusal to ratchet up pressure on Syria at the UN, warning Moscow that it was on the wrong side of history.
"I would simply say that it is our belief, and it's the belief that we express in these conversations, that supporting the Assad regime is placing oneself or one's nation on the wrong side of history," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
U.S. President Barack Obama discussed the need for an end to the violence in Syria in a video conference with the leaders of France, Germany, and Italy.
The White House said the consultations with French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti represented a follow up to the G8 summit Obama hosted earlier this month.
China has reiterated its support for Annan's plan, while Gulf Arab states have come under criticism from Moscow for undermining the plan by arming Syrian rebels.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman reiterated on Wednesday that China "opposes military intervention and does not support forced regime change."
"The fundamental route to resolving (the crisis) is still for all sides to fully support Annan's mediation efforts," Liu Weimin told a daily news briefing.
- TAAN, RT, Al-Akhbar, Reuters, AFP