Syrian Forces Launch Large Attack on Homs
By William Tucker
Military forces loyal to the Syrian regime launched a massive attack against the city of Homs. Raw video posted to the internet shows artillery being used in the city, but what exactly is being targeted is unclear. At this juncture, however, it is unlikely that the regime is concerned with protecting civilians trapped inside the target area. The call by the UN to withdraw heavy artillery from the cities has gone unheeded by the regime for the duration of the cease-fire. Indeed, as previously noted here at IHS, the Annan plan was never fully implement. For its part, the U.S. State Department has expressed concern that the Assad regime in Damascus may be planning another massacre. The State Department spokesman did not cite any specific intelligence to indicate that such planning was occurring, but judging by recent events the possibility of another massacre is very real.
As we previously stated when the Free Syrian Army (FSA) withdrew from the Annan backed cease-fire, events in Syria were likely to escalate significantly. There is absolutely no incentive for either side to quit fighting as the international community just cannot cobble together a viable solution to the conflict without the acquiescence of Russia and China. In the meantime, the pressure of the ongoing conflict is having an impact in neighboring Lebanon, and to a lesser extent, Turkey. Lebanon doesn’t have any real capability to protect its borders from any spillover violence. Furthermore, Hezbollah has remained in league with the Assad regime in Syria which further exacerbates matters. Turkey, on the other hand, does have capabilities it can bring to bear in the conflict; however Ankara has been careful to avoid being drug into the conflict in a conventional military manner.
Two other regional heavyweights – Saudi Arabia and Iran – have had no such reservations thus far. The Iranian presence in Syria, and its support for Assad, are hardly a surprise factor, but the aggressiveness displayed by Riyadh in its support for the Syrian opposition is certainly remarkable. Although the support from Saudi Arabia, and a handful of other Gulf States, is meant to be covert, supporters of the opposition have a stake in publicizing their involvement. They will also likely point to the inability of the UN Security Council to act on the Syrian issue as justification for their involvement. In essence, foreign intervention may not come from an official UN resolution, but individual players in the region have too much at stake to let things be.
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