Friday, June 29, 2012

The Relics!

When regime propagandists begin describing the majority population in their country as Relics, especially after their president declared war against said majority, chances for the success of a new plan that lacks enforcement mechanisms drop to null, while those for ethnic cleansing on an even larger scale than witnessed so far increase to 100%. But if world leaders expect the relics to go gently into that good night, they are as delusional as Assad and his militias.  

Thursday June 28, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 139. The Breakdown: 59 in Damascus Suburbs (mostly in Douma), 26 in Homs, 17 in Daraa, 15 in Deir Ezzor, 9 in Hama, 9 in Idlib, and 2 in Aleppo.

Lebanese police is reportedly increasing its crackdown against Syrian anti-regime activists living in Lebanon, with new arrests reported. Previously Lebanese authorities surrendered Syrian activists to the Assad regime despite their refugee status. International community should act now to pressure Lebanese authorities into complying with all norms and regulations pertaining to treatment of refugees.

News


Op-Eds & Special Reports

The Massacre of Douma (Damascus Suburbs)

Victims: 38 dead, and 150 wounded. Most died in the continuous shelling of the town, but 14 people were executed when pro-Assad militias stormed their neighborhoods, they belonged to one family: Al-Tomei. The dead included 7 children and a 90-year old grandmother
http://youtu.be/3LQpsWk-qzE The victims http://youtu.be/OH2l_6ma1qE , http://youtu.be/KyEySQA_0Zc The fridge http://youtu.be/86_YL2gdnDI The pounding sets buildings on fire http://youtu.be/k_tN8xJ_pn8 The invading tanks pound their way into the neighborhood http://youtu.be/P50ZWFyQoTg , http://youtu.be/e0zxDte4WcY Helicopter gunships took part in the pounding http://youtu.be/M9c_2nWuzSk Tank in action http://youtu.be/TLVANdGP9pc Nearby Kafarbatna is also pounded http://youtu.be/8X83i9CofDo In Arbeen, helicopter gunships take part in the pounding http://youtu.be/Ij2b3tUZ_hA


Unfortunately, what could have been a good point to make on the need for providing structural and constitutional protections to the country’s minorities in the future reads like an exercise in pro-regime propaganda. The authors, self-proclaimed intelligence analysts focusing on Syrian-Lebanese issues, adopted regime line on the expulsion of Christians from Old Homs and the nearby town of Qusayr.

Rather than attributing the exodus of 80,000 Christians to the same reasons that paved the way for the simultaneous exodus from adjacent neighborhoods of over 500,000 Sunni inhabitants, that is:  indiscriminate and well-documented shelling of neighborhoods by pro-regime troops, our “intelligence” analysts claim that Sunni fighters took the time to risk their lives to go on a suicidal house-to-house mission to order Christian families out. The presence of Christians in the middle of areas targeted by pro-regime militias was a major complicating factor for the regime, their departure facilitate the intensification of the bombing campaign. Yet, our intelligence analysts want us to believe that local Sunni fighters made this major miscalculation not once but twice: in Old Homs and Al-Qusayr.

A better take on the threat to Christians in Qusayr can be found here.

To date, experts simply refuse to see the real patterns emerging on the ground, patterns which denote active planning for the creation of a future enclave in the coastal and central parts of Syria where the overwhelming majority population is made up of Alawites and Christians. The only beneficiaries of massive population shifts in the country are Assad and his loyalist militias. In fact, most Christians who left Old Homs went to live in Alawite-majority neighborhoods in Homs City and most those who left the town of Qusayr went to live in towns and villages close to majority Alawite towns and villages, although some escaped to Lebanon, and from there to western countries.

Syria’s Turkish Relics

But the most telling development of late is the declaration of war enunciated by Bashar Al-Assad against his enemies, i.e., the majority of the Syrian people, even as world leaders keep speaking of political solutions and peaceful transfer of power. Assad is not interested in taking part in power-sharing arrangements even if they keep him in power for a while or afford him a face-saving exit to U.K. Whether as President of the country, or a warlord with his own major turf, Assad wants to stay in Syria, and no amount of coaxing, plans or talks can change his mind. His bombs speak louder than all words, and his propagandist are already trying to draw a scenario that can justify further ethnic cleansing in the country, on a more mass scale.

The recent dismissal by pro-Assad ideologue on Addounia TV, the network owned by Assad’s cousin, Rami Makhlouf, of the Sunni inhabitants of Homs as “Turkish Relics” from Ottoman times comes as the latest attempt at justifying the ethnic cleansing that took place there. The Assad regime has moved from blatant denial into defiant admission and justification of the crimes its militias are perpetrating all over the country. This is both a sign of weakness and strength. Assad and his advisers know that they are losing the country, they also know, however that their plans for the creation of a loyalist enclave on most ethnic lines are progressing nicely. Putin is buying them the time they need for that.

Power Sharing

In this light, plans for unity government proposed by Kofi Annan seem completely unrealistic, especially considering the absence of any enforcement mechanisms. What would make an Assad who just declared war against 80% of his people and whose militias are busy ethnically cleansing huge swathes of lands from native Sunnis, now deemed as Turkish Relics, stop and decide to allow for such unity government to take place and to pave the way for his replacement, absent any serious threats to is very existence?   

The War in Videos

In Khan Al-Sibil, Idlib province, where fighters managed to take control of an anti-aircraft battery, they now target the helicopter gunships targeting their community http://youtu.be/UDkLOYVs52o


Basra Al-Harir, Daraa, comes under fire at night http://youtu.be/u7nPZWd84jo Al-Hraak gets pounded at night http://youtu.be/fTNyaS3ZI-w Daraa City (Sadd) comes under fire at night http://youtu.be/DRVjuOLHODQ , http://youtu.be/lWRuLgJdBqQ , http://youtu.be/8MD1Rhk3DNM

Zamalka, Damascus Suburbs, comes under fire at night http://youtu.be/WLNtD3L6Bg8 , http://youtu.be/ctFdQtnCwI8

The sounds of war in Deir Ezzor City http://youtu.be/os9DlVXzw68where , http://youtu.be/TIHCt2PcldI local fighters destroyed three attacking tanks, and mass defections continue to take place on a regular basis. Pro-Assad militias in these parts often draw on members from Sunni Arab tribes in Hassakah and Raqqah which is why defections are quite common. The aftermath of pounding http://youtu.be/dk--JjUQVz8 Helicopter gunships take part in the pounding http://youtu.be/ZHQ_u5wdIrk The tanks taking part in laying siege to the city http://youtu.be/sW8ibkRtu4o

In Homs Province, the pounding of Talbisseh continues http://youtu.be/i7COl3Q4S_c , http://youtu.be/cii6BMh_Ocs and the pounding of Houla http://youtu.be/XLdeOc_TKng and the pounding of Rastan http://youtu.be/aX0GbRIwLuQ The pounding of Old Homs continues (Jouret Al-Shayah) http://youtu.be/l08ueytnkOg , http://youtu.be/p_Q-wkZH0qI , http://youtu.be/qHNEdwlaM68

The pounding of Jabal Shahshabo, Hama Province, continues http://youtu.be/sJFxdC_TjRI

Lattakia, Jabal Al-Akrad, the pounding continues http://youtu.be/mtQuri00GX4


Still, whenever people have the chance to demonstrate peacefully, they do in droves:

In Damascus: Daraya http://youtu.be/aQ9HzUhifCQ Dafalshawk http://youtu.be/g4Kgi4KxGgY Barzeh http://youtu.be/O0_64MvOssQ Qaboun http://youtu.be/qrgdaT-nhhQ Halbouni http://youtu.be/iucP9OOxZcQ

In Hama: Bab Qibli http://youtu.be/ZWOvTM6vIPQ



In Homs City, Wa’er http://youtu.be/jYLaCSAnVho

In Idlib: Marrat Al-Nouman (funeral) http://youtu.be/SO88LjB-OjY Kafar Ouaid http://youtu.be/gYZvRa7QRR8

Thursday, June 28, 2012

All-Out War All Across Syria!

As long as the All-Out War waged by Assad continues to meet with an all-out grappling by international leaders to the illusion of political solution, Syrians will continue to die and Syria will continue to disintegrate.

Wednesday June 27, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 104. The Breakdown: 42 in Idilb, 15 in Damascus Suburbs, 14 in Deir Ezzor, 10 in Daraa, 10 in Homs, 8 in Qamislo, 3 in Hama, 1 in Hassakah and 1 in Aleppo. The toll includes 20 children.

Major battles took place throughout Syria today, but the main story remains the indiscriminate shelling by pro-Assad militias of communities where local resistance groups have managed to wrest control of their communities. As these words are being written, Damascus City and Suburbs are witnessing major clashes with explosions heard throughout many key neighborhoods.  

Live-streaming the pounding of Douma Suburb, Damascus http://bambuser.com/v/2786416

News
The headquarters of a privately-owned, pro-government TV station were attacked and employees were kidnapped and killed. The government blames 'terrorists'. Rebel forces deny that they target the media.
Islamist group says it is launching investigation to discover who is behind 'despicable crime.' Al-Mayadeen: Kamal Ranaja served as aide to top Hamas man killed in Dubai in 2010
Hamas leader believes Mossad behind killing, says Kamel Ranaja was former deputy of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was assassinated in Dubai over two years ago.
Expert says Turkish was not aware Syrian forces capable of intercepting enemy planes flying under radar. US officials: Damascus beefed up missile defense after Israel bombed reactor




Op-Eds & Special Reports
HOW DOCTORS OPERATE IN WARTIME In Syria and beyond, doctors risk their lives to save others. Here's what it takes to do this dangerous work.

“There has been a definite pushback from Obama’s administration,” said Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian activist and author who coordinated the delegation’s trip. Mr. Abdulhamid described the current White House administration as a “black box” of secrecy. Mr. Abdulhamid said he sent an email to the White House to request a meeting but never heard back. He blamed that on a technical glitch rather than purposeful negligence, but also noted the administration's policy of noninterference in Syria.

Video Highlights

Two of twenty children who died today: they died when the town of Hayyan, Aleppo Province, came under heavy shelling http://youtu.be/VJxBiF2L87g The pounding http://youtu.be/ZBIuZQRmGF8 , http://youtu.be/s1tteWeVXMI

Two more children fell in the town of Habeet, Idlib Province http://youtu.be/dn6APXIZ174 , http://youtu.be/IKJwSTNu-54

More scenes from the massacre of Al-Hameh, Damascus Suburbs (June 26) http://youtu.be/yMz1N5Cl9wM Pro-Assad militias invaded the town and executed locals en masse http://youtu.be/NovthUOfE08  

Nighttime protesters in Ruknaddine Neighborhood, Damascus City, come under fire http://youtu.be/lU-NoOGHkCo

The pounding of Houla, Homs Province, continues http://youtu.be/mZJCzG1nUAo , http://youtu.be/8ig4-W5x1Qo The nearby town of Talbisseh is also pounded http://youtu.be/p85h6dJwJ7c , http://youtu.be/bzWo2EkGs-o Helicopter gunships take part http://youtu.be/fJAghXn5VBk The town of Rastan gets pounded as well http://youtu.be/MTKNCM_ayag Meanwhile, the indiscriminate pounding of old neighborhoods in Homs City continues (Jouret Al-Shayah) http://youtu.be/x5CzS3KoDWk (Qoussour) http://youtu.be/_Zye6tsZ5DU

The pounding of the town of Da’el, Daraa, left many dead http://youtu.be/Y2mm_kUCSho

The pounding of Sanamein, Daraa http://youtu.be/H2DMfMvePmY

The town of Maarabah, Daraa, gets pounded by Helicopters http://youtu.be/raeEjYPFR2g

The pounding of Karnaz, Hama Province http://youtu.be/9q64sZ_cZck

The pounding of Ma’arrat Al-Nouman, Idlib http://youtu.be/d_Q47FT_IOU , http://youtu.be/Y1f-PbnE-Yo

The pounding of Khan Al-Sibil, Idlib http://youtu.be/LgvYtyLX_cM A house catches fire http://youtu.be/EmLqhk-toLM

Local in the town of Albou Kamal along the borders with Iraq come under fire http://youtu.be/MR3IiQUkDeo

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Culprits!

As local resistance groups manage to overwhelm pro-Assad troops and militias throughout Syria driving them out of their town and communities, Assad’s subsequent strategy calls for indiscriminate shelling of these communities using heavy artillery, tanks and helicopter gunships. The tragic nature of this development aside, the situation does give an opportunity for interested international parties to direct air strikes against positions held by pro-Assad militias with minimal risk of collateral damage to civilian populations. But international dithering continues to prolong the life of the Assad regime. Iran and Russia are no longer the sole external culprits in the massacres currently perpetrated by pro-Assad militias.

Tuesday June 26, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 113. The Breakdown: 33 in Damascus Suburbs (Hameh and Qudsayah, West of Damascus, and Douma, East of Damascus) 16 in Daraa, 24 in Idlib, 14 in Homs, 10 in Deir Ezzor, 9 in Aleppo, 5 in Hama and 2 in Damascus City.

Assad officially admits he is waging war against the Syrian people Assad says Syria in a "real state of war" Indeed, a war is an apt description of what is taking place in so many towns and cities across the countries, even in Damascus suburbs: Fierce fighting erupts near Damascus. Even UN monitors are feeling the heat: Syria deemed too dangerous for U.N. monitors to resume mission. But the mood inside the regime’s upper ranks seems to be increasingly cloudy, as more high level defections are reported: Latest Syrian Defectors Are From Higher Ranks.

Turkish PM’s border warning to Assad could pave the way for formalizing and protecting the de facto safe haven carved out in Idlib Province by local resistance: Turkey PM Erdogan issues Syria border warning. In this light, NATO’s lack of retaliation might of little consequence for now: Turkey, NATO assail Syria, but no retaliation for shoot-down seen. So does French dithering: French support waning for any action in Syria: poll.

Meanwhile, more U.S. officials are calling for serious action on Syria: Rice: Syria will never be stable with Assad in place.

News


Op-Eds & Special Reports

The Resistance

Video Highlights

Rebel control over the areas adjacent to the Syrian-Turkish borders in the Idlib province was firm enough to encourage a visit by former SNC President, Bourhane Ghalioun. So, even as Assad was giving his defiant speech, Mr. Ghalioun was paying a visit to the liberated communities near the Turkish borders: Arriving in disguise http://youtu.be/pFNXoejZ0VU Meeting members of the local resistance http://youtu.be/bPshRSd_J24 The trip back http://youtu.be/2WWSvWknnAg A day earlier, members of the local resistance managed to take control of an anti-aircraft gun http://youtu.be/c_9HCiOtFok

Maar Dibseh, Idlib Province: a helicopter gunship makes an emergency landing http://youtu.be/zHz43DWmI9s and gets destroyed by members of the local resistance http://youtu.be/Veot_Bq7h7Q In nearby Khan Al-Subul, local resistance destroy a BMP http://youtu.be/Btn5kuLrUnU Wounded and martyrs http://youtu.be/lBrxQKZJkGo , http://youtu.be/6gKYU9LAprY , http://youtu.be/zigFBCMdvN0

The pounding of Khan Shaikhoon, Idlib Province http://youtu.be/NLsDkfyCulU , http://youtu.be/Mlbis-CNaXk

Elsewhere, in Homs Province, members of the local resistance capture a brigadier General working for the Syrian air force http://youtu.be/wSbS0367aX8

Al-Hameh, Damascus: mass grave for today’s victims of mass shelling http://youtu.be/rN2MvqnqYgA The martyrs http://youtu.be/hRUzOgVj9Ls The pounding of Al-Hameh was caught on camera http://youtu.be/_PgYeQjLXQA Nearby Qudsaya offers several martyrs as well http://youtu.be/jzCKtsMv_O8 , http://youtu.be/GqaRyQiKP3I , http://youtu.be/WJcHJW_5TAA The pounding of Qudsaya was caught on camera http://youtu.be/U3LYl6smPxI


The pounding of old neighborhoods in Homs City continues http://youtu.be/5vy2uvGzf7s

The pounding of Deir Ezzor City continues http://youtu.be/2YZTh--d63Q Shops catch fire http://youtu.be/uQH8OUzXaTo A home catch fire http://youtu.be/WoDmjv1Qcok Martyrs http://youtu.be/bunCMEY2mMI A little child among the martyrs http://youtu.be/g-0ab41wLpo

Mleihah Al-Gharbiyeh, Daraa is pounded by choppers http://youtu.be/OzECh1PC3G0

The Palestinian Refugee Camp near Daraa City offers more martyrs http://youtu.be/d9fkgwgQsHU as the continuing pounding displaces more people http://youtu.be/9FFSWXix41Q The funeral http://youtu.be/O_8yFRmg4t8 Mourners come under fire from snipers http://youtu.be/i_BeSuLqU7Q

Monday, June 25, 2012

On the Road (4)!

The official statement by the White House on the downing of a Turkish jet by Assad air defenses promised that the U.S. will “work with Turkey and other partners to hold the Assad regime accountable.” Let’s see to what further inefficient and laughable policies this promise will engender on Tuesday when NATO is scheduled to meet. Because after 16 months of stupidity, hypocrisy and inefficiency, I do not dare expect anything from international policymakers except more of the same. Of course, that’s what all can expect from us as well, because we are not planning on giving up.

Sunday June 24, 2012

Clashes are now taking place on a regular basis in towns and communities across Syria, including Homs, Idlib, Hama, Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, Daraa and Damascus Suburbs. The average daily death toll is around 150. Recourse to helicopter gunships and heavy artillery by pro-Assad troops and militias continues to be a routine occurrence.

News

Op-Eds & Special Reports

What Russia Gave Syria A guide to Bashar al-Assad's arsenal.

“The Wounded Will Be Killed” An American photojournalist describes what he saw during the month he spent in a Syrian village under siege. The Martyrdom of Al Qusayr Images from photojournalist Robert King’s recent visit to a Syrian community under siege.

Video Highlights

Shelling in Maarbah, Daraa http://youtu.be/naX791iSjKU Daraa City, Daraa http://youtu.be/a5WlwtikWno Al-Hraak, Daraa - a dead child is mourned by his mother http://youtu.be/Btlb1jzbLXY Talbisseh, Homs http://youtu.be/jLDD9CBXGLI Rastan, Homs http://youtu.be/0MHax97PwrU The mangled bodies of the locals http://youtu.be/gyZDrMovU24 Homs City http://youtu.be/M_Brv5q0pBI , http://youtu.be/ZxBIoGzwzTY Deir Ezzor City http://youtu.be/BRQhTC_pTM8 Ariha, Idlib http://youtu.be/qatXgmCmd08 Hass, Idlib a tank takes part in the pounding http://youtu.be/tFSdnrsUZx8

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Paper-Tigers & Wimps!

They talk tough but remain missing in action: Turkish and Western leaders better spare us their sympathy is it don’t come with an action plan that can stop Assad NOW.

Sunday June 24, 2012

The average daily death toll is now close to 150, and the worst is yet to come, with more pro-Assad militias perpetrating more and more massacres, selling more and more towns throughout the country.

News


The circumstances of the deaths were not immediately clear, with the state-run news agency saying at least 25 men were killed. In the video — which The Associated Press could not independently verify — the narrator said the victims were members of the "shabiha," or pro-regime gunmen… It was not clear whether the men were killed execution-style or died in clashes. An activist in the area, Mohammed Saeed, said rebels regularly collect the bodies of the dead from the government side and dump them by the side of the road so troops can collect them later.


Op-Eds & Special Reports

More coverage of AEI Event on Syria, June 18, 2012

“The country is being partitioned.  Waiting will allow for the partitioning to actually take effect.  There will be repercussions that will be felt in Lebanon, in Iraq, in Jordan, in Turkey and perhaps even in Israel as well,” Syrian pro-democracy activist Ammar Abdulhamid said. (Video)

Turkey – A Paper Tiger on the Mediterranean

After making so many on promises on Syria, like vowing not to allow Hama, only to stand and watch the retaking of Hama, and the endless slaughter that followed and to watch on helplessly as Assad troops pursued refugees even inside Turkey’s borders, the downing of a Turkish fighter jet by Assad’s air defenses, mostly likely operated under guidance of Russian experts, and Erdogan’s confused reaction to the matter serve only to consolidate the emerging image of Turkey as nothing more than a paper tiger.

With its continued reliance on Iranian gas supplies, continued problems between the political and military leaderships, and continued inability to effectively address its Kurdish Question, not to mention its Alevi Question the mere enunciation of which remains a taboo, the image of a regional powerhouse that Turkey has been to project over the last few years seem highly exaggerated. Turkey is simply not ready, politically, economically, or militarily, to be a serious player on the regional scene, consideration of Turkish pride notwithstanding. Her leaders are advised to reflect this reality in their pronouncements to avoid having more egg on their faces, and to avoid the continued embarrassment of having to appear nothing more than mustachioed wimps even when confronted by the region’s lankiest and weakest link: Bashar Al-Assad.

U.S. Policy on Syria – another example of wimpishness in action

The interview below with Secretaries Clinton and Baker outline the current U.S. policy on Syria. At the heart of the policy is he continued preoccupation with Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the belief that Russia can help find a solution for this, hence the unwillingness to anger Russians over Syria and the push for so-called political transition with Nicaragua rather than Yemen providing the model for that. But with no talk of serious enforcement mechanisms, any talk of political solutions risks going in the same direction of the Arab League and Annan plans, and will only buy Assad more time to keep killing and ensuring the de facto partition of the country.

Interview With Charlie Rose of "Conversations on Diplomacy"
Hillary Rodham Clinton Secretary of State, Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III 
Benjamin Franklin Room
, Washington, DC, June 20, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON:
 On Syria, so far they’ve taken Russia’s lead on Syria. But we’re working on that every single day as well.

MR. ROSE:
 Why did they do that? Why do they take Russia’s lead?

SECRETARY CLINTON:
 Well, I think both Russia and China have a very strong aversion to interference in internal affairs.

MR. ROSE:
 Sovereignty issue.

SECRETARY CLINTON:
 Yes.

SECRETARY BAKER:
 Yeah.

SECRETARY CLINTON:
 And so for the Russians, we – I was with President Obama in Mexico two days ago. We had a two-hour meeting with President Putin. They’re just – they don’t want anything to do with it. They find it quite threatening, and basically they reject it out of hand. So anything that smacks of interference for the Russians and for the Chinese, they presume against. There are other reasons, but that’s the principal objection that they make.

MR. ROSE:
 Would coming – both different countries and different points, but they somehow come together on these issues – Syria and with respect to Russia and the role they are playing.

SECRETARY BAKER:
 Yeah, yeah.

MR. ROSE:
 And the role that the United States is playing and the role that the region can play. What should we be doing and what is the risk of not doing?

SECRETARY BAKER:
 Well, I’ll answer that in just a minute. But first let me say if we’re going to have differences with Russia – and we do have some differences with Russia – it seems to me the most important difference we might have is with respect to Iran. And we don’t have that now, and that’s really important. And I don’t think we ought to create a problem with Russia vis-a-vis what we want to do in Iran about their nuclear ambitions as a result of something we might do in Syria. I just think the Iranian issue there is far more important really than how we resolve the Syrian issue.

How should we resolve the Syrian issue? I think we should continue to support a political transition in the government in Syria. But I don’t – but I think we ought to support it diplomatically, politically, and economically in every way that we can, but we should be very leery, extremely leery, about being drawn in to any kind of a military confrontation or exercise.

MR. ROSE:
 Does that include supplying them with arms?

SECRETARY BAKER:
 That – well, that’s a slippery slope. The fact of the matter is a lot of our allies are already supplying them with arms. Okay? It’s not something –

MR. ROSE:
 And our friends in the region.

SECRETARY BAKER:
 Well, I say our allies in the region. Yeah, they’re doing it. And it’s not something we have to do. I look at Syria and I think why are we not calling for something that we – this is – it may not be the right comparison, but in 1989, when we came into office, the wars in Central America were the holy grail of the left, political left in this country, and the holy grail of the political right in this country. We said if we can take these wars out of domestic politics, we can cure the foreign policy problem, and we did.

How did we do it? We put it to both parties – Daniel Ortega, the hardline, authoritarian dictator, if you will, in Nicaragua, and to Violeta Chamorro, the opposition candidate. We said if you’ll hold an election and both agree to abide by the results, that’s the way we’ll get out of this conundrum. That’s what happened. And both of them did agree, finally, to abide by the results. Ortega lost. President Carter was very instrumental in getting him to leave office. Why don’t we try something like that in Syria, I mean, and say look, political transition is what we’re looking for. Everybody – even the Russians, I think – would have difficulty saying no, we’re not going to go for an election, particularly if you let Bashar run. Let him run. Make sure you have a lot of observers in there. Make sure they can’t fix the election. Why not try that?
 

MR. ROSE:
 Why not try that?

SECRETARY CLINTON:
 Well, actually, that is the path that we are trying. And I spoke with Kofi Annan again today. He is working on a political transition roadmap. We are somewhat disadvantaged by the fact that I think Assad still believes he can crush what he considers to be an illegitimate rebellion against his authority and characterizes everyone who opposes him as a terrorist who is supported by foreign interests. He’s not yet at the point where he understands his legitimacy is gone and he is on a downward slope.

The other problem we have is that the opposition has not yet congealed around a figure or even a group that can command the respect and attention internally within Syria as well as internationally. So what we’re doing is, number one, putting more economic pressure, because that is important, and the sanctions and trying to cut off the Syrian regime, and send a message to the Syrian business class, which so far has stuck with Assad.
 

We’re also working very hard to try to prop up and better organize the opposition. We’ve spent a lot of time on that. It still is a work in progress. We are also pushing hard on having Kofi Annan lay down a political transition roadmap and then getting a group of nations, that would include Russia, in a working group to try to sell that to both the Assad regime and to the opposition
 .

So, I mean, the path forward is exactly as Jim has described it. Getting the people and the interests on that path has been what we’ve been working on now for several months.

MR. ROSE:
 Who would be in that group other than the United States, Russia? Who else?

SECRETARY CLINTON:
 Well, you would have to have the Arab League because Kofi Annan is a joint envoy of both the UN and the Arab League. You would have to have the permanent members of the Security Council because that’s who he represents in his UN role. And you’d have to have the neighbors. You’ve got to have Turkey involved because of their long border and their very clear interests. But when I spoke with him today, he’s going to be making another proposal to the Russians, the Turks, and other interested groups to try to get them to agree on this roadmap and then a meeting, in effect to go public with it, so that we can increase the pressure not only on the Assad regime but on the opposition as well.

MR. ROSE:
 Is there a role for Iran?

SECRETARY CLINTON:
 At this point, it would be very difficult for Iran to be initially involved. I mean, I’m a big believer in talking to people when you can and trying to solve problems when you can. But right now, we’re focused on dealing with Iran and the nuclear portfolio. That has to be our focus. Iran’s always trying to get us to talk about anything else except their nuclear program.

And then we also have the added problem that Iran is not just supporting Assad, they are helping him to devise and execute the very plans that he is following to suppress, oppress the opposition.
 

SECRETARY BAKER:
 If you get the – you’re going to get the attention of the Russians and the Chinese, in my view, in the Security Council if you come with some sort of a proposal for a political transition that might involve an election, if you’re willing to say anybody and everybody can run. That means, of course, you got to make sure that the election is not fixed. But that would put a lot of pressure – the only reason I mention this, it seems to be that would put a lot of pressure on the Russians to support this idea.

With respect to Iran, I agree with the Secretary. This is not the place to involve them. However, I would think there might be a place for them in a group with respect to Afghanistan. They helped us when we first went in there. We talked to them. They were helpful.