British Prime Minister Cameron and Russian President Putin
Leaders of the Group of 8 (G8) industrialised countries gather in Northern Ireland today, with Syria likely to be a central topic of discussion.
The public line will be that countries like Britain, France, Russia, and the US can finally agree on the terms for the delayed international “peace” conference in Geneva.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in London on Sunday: “We can overcome these differences if we recognise that we share some fundamental aims: to end the conflict, to stop Syria breaking apart, to let the Syrian people decide who governs them and to take the fight to the extremists and defeat them.”
Privately, the leaders probably know that a peace conference is little more than a chimera. The regime and opposition are unlikely to agree on whether President Assad should be forced to step aside, and neither the US-Europe coalition nor Russia appears willing to compromise on that issue.
Instead, the hardening of both sides over intervention, with the US now publicly saying it will arm the insurgency and Moscow maintaining its ties with Assad, mean that the military dimension is likely to be the primary if unstated consideration
Putin let it be known on Sunday that Moscow will continue to blame the insurgency even as he said, “You can’t deny that both sides have blood on their hands.” He said, “The question is who to blame. You shouldn’t back people who kill their enemies and film themselves eating their organs.”
And then the Russian leader chastised the European Union for lifting a weapons embargo on the opposition: “Do you want to supply arms to these people? This goes against the humanitarian and cultural values that Europe has been professing for centuries.”
Assad Says Europe Will “Pay Price, Forfeit Important Market” If It Arms Insurgency, Denies Hezbollah “Brigades” In Syria
In an interview with Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper on Monday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned of “two consequences” should Europe arm the insurgency:
First, Europe’s back garden will become a hub for terrorism and chaos, which leads to deprivation and poverty; Europe will pay the price and forfeit an important market. Second, terrorism will not stop here – it will spread to your countries.
Syrian State news outlet SANA provided a full English translation [the accuracy of which has not been verified by EA — Ed.].
In response to a question about whether the Syrian regime needed the assistance of Hezbollah and Iran, Assad did not refer to Iran but accused the Western media of placing undue emphasis on Hezbollah’s role in the regime’s takeover of Qusayr. The Syrian Army was capable of fighting alone, Assad said, adding:
[T]he aim of this [Western media] frenzy is to reflect an image of Hezbollah as the main fighting force and to provoke Western and International public opinion against Hezbollah.
Assad denied that there were entire brigades of Hezbollah fighters in Syria:
There are no brigades. They have sent fighters who have aided the Syrian army in cleaning areas on the Lebanese borders that were infiltrated by terrorists. They did not deploy forces into Syria. As you are aware, Hezbollah forces are positioned towards Israel and cannot depart Southern Lebanon. Additionally, if Hezbollah wanted to send fighters into Syria, how many could they send? A few hundred? The Syrian Army has deployed hundreds of thousands of troops across the country. Several hundred would make a difference in one area, but it would not conceivably constitute enough to tip the balance across all of Syria.
Assad also denied that the Syrian Army had deployed chemical weapons, saying that the US and Europe had no evidence to prove that the regime had done so. However, the Syrian President repeated accusations that the insurgency had employed chemical weapons:
The terrorist groups used chemical weapons in Aleppo; subsequently we sent an official letter to the United Nations requesting a formal investigation into the incident. Britain and France blocked this investigation because it would have proven the chemical attacks were carried out by terrorist groups and hence provided conclusive evidence that they (Britain and France) were lying.
Assad also denied that the Syrian Army has deliberately conducted aerial attacks against certain areas, accusing the insurgents of “infiltrating” populated areas and using civilians as human shields, an accusation the Syrian government has made in the past. Human rights groups, including US-based Human Rights Watch, have accused Assad of deliberately targeting civilians in airstrikes, to create terror.
With regard to the proposed Geneva II conference, Assad said a delegation would attend:
We hope that the Geneva conference will push forward the dialogue process in Syria especially since, earlier this year we presented a vision for a political solution based on the Geneva I communiqué. However, even though we will attend the conference with this understanding, we should be clear on the facts. First, the same countries I mentioned earlier that are supporting the terrorists in Syria have a vested interest in the talks failing. The logical question is: what is the relationship between the Geneva conference and terrorism on the ground? Simply, if the Geneva conference is successful – as is our hope, in preventing the smuggling of weapons and terrorists – there are over 29 different nationalities documented to be in Syria, then this would be a catalyst for resolving the Syrian crisis.
The leader of the Shuhada Badr Brigade warned residents in Aleppo’s Ashrafieh neighborhood on Monday (see map below) that there would be an escalation of operations on all fronts, including Sheikh Maqsoud to the northeast. The brigade called on civilians to leave the area, because regime troops were likely to target the neighborhood in the next few days.
The message comes amid continued heavy fighting in Ashrafieh, where insurgents claim to have targeted regime forces including Hezbollah members.
This footage purports to show insurgents in Aleppo targeting a building in which they claim Hezbollah members are hiding.
Map Showing Location of Ashrafia:
Activists are reporting a suicide bombing by the Islamic State of Iraq, targeting regime forces in Aleppo.
This video claims to show the moment of the explosion:
While the video says the attack was a “martyrdom operation” — in other words, a suicide bombing — Al-Jazeera report that the attack was a car bomb. Al Jazeera also cite an activist, Mohammad al-Hadi, as saying that the attack hit near a military complex in the town of al-Douwairina near Aleppo’s international airport and killed at least 60 members of Bashar al-Assad’s troops, however those figures are not verified.
Footage provided by activists suggests that incident was a suicide bombing in which the bomber drove an explosives-packed vehicle rather than wearing an explosive vest. This video, posted by the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham, was purportedly filmed before the bombing.
This video purportedly shows the bomber getting into the van used in the bombing before driving it to its target location. The vehicle is shown packed with explosives. On the side of the van is an Islamic State of Iraq and As-Sham flag, albeit in reverse — while usually the flag has a white emblem on a black background, this flag has a black emblem on a white background:
Syrian State media report a car bomb in al-Dwiryeh in Aleppo’s eastern countryside, but say nobody was killed in the blast.
Russia will not permit no-fly zones to be imposed over Syria, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Monday.
“I think we fundamentally would not allow this scenario,” Lukashevich told a news briefing, adding that calls for a no-fly zone showed disrespect for international law.
A “Gulf source” has told Reuters that Saudi Arabia began supplying anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian insurgency “on a small scale” about two months ago.
The shoulder-fired weapons were obtained mostly from suppliers in France and Belgium, the source said, with Paris paying for transport. The supplies are going to General Salim Idriss, leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army.
Following reports by the Local Coordination Committees of fierce clashes between insurgents and regime forces in the Qadam industrial complex in Damascus on Sunday, activists posted this short video on Monday, claiming that Assad’s forces had conducted airstrikes against the complex.
The footage shows a large plume of smoke rising from the ground.
Several videos show the Mujahideen Brigade of As-Sham engaged in fighting regime forces.
This footage from Sunday says it shows insurgent fighters in al-Qadam targeting “shabiha and Hezbollah strongholds” in the neighborhood.
Maps showing location of al-Qadam:
The Local Coordination Committees claim that 81 people were killed on Sunday, including 25 in Damascus and its suburbs, 20 in Aleppo Province, and 11 in Daraa Province.
The Violations Documentations Center records 63,806 deaths since the start of the conflict in March 2011, an increase of 97 from Sunday. Of the dead, 49,134 are civilians, a rise of 68 from yesterday.