Entries in Syrian Opposition (9)


Syrian Activist Presents Plan to End Long Civil War

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Any plan to end the long conflict in Syria is worth considering at this point, no matter how far-fetched it might seem.

Opposition activist Moaz al-Khatib, who once led the Syrian National Coalition, is proposing that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad be allowed to step down without fear of repercussions.

In a Facebook posting, al-Khatib outlined his plan, which would give the embattled Syrian leader three weeks from now to accept "a peaceful transition of authority."

When that happens, al-Assad would have a month to hand over the reins of power to either Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi or Vice President Faruq al-Sharaa.

Their rule would only be temporary, under al-Khatib's proposal, as Syria would switch from a transitional to permanent government within 100 days.

While al-Khatib's allies and the West would likely go along with the plan, the major stumbling block is al-Assad himself who has said he would fight to the death rather than give in to his enemies.

Nevertheless, al-Khatib contends his idea is "a practical response to the need of a political settlement ensuring a peaceful transition of authority."

What's more, he said the Syrian president could leave the country with 500 people of his choice to whatever nation will accept them.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


John McCain Tells Leon Panetta ‘We’re Not Leading’ on Syria

KARIM SAHIB/AFP/​Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain, a supporter of U.S. military action to bring down the Assad regime in Syria, told Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday that the United States has failed to show unilateral leadership on the crisis in Syria.

The Arizona Republican advocated earlier this week for U.S. air strikes against Syria to help end President Bashar al-Assad’s bloody crackdown of opposition groups.

Panetta, appearing before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to discuss the situation in Syria, said in his opening statement that the United States was reviewing potential steps that could include “potential military options if necessary.”  But he stressed that “although we will not rule out any future course of action, currently the administration is focusing on diplomatic and political approaches rather than a military intervention.”

He made the point that the United States was working with international partners to build "a consensus as to what action we do take. That makes the most sense. What doesn’t make sense is to take unilateral action at this point,” Panetta said.

He said that as defense secretary, he has a responsibility to be sure of the mission and their role in it. Panetta said the Obama administration “believes that every effort ought to be made to deal with those concerns in the international setting to try to build the kind of international consensus that worked in Libya and that can work in Syria if we can develop that.”

McCain disliked that response, saying to Panetta, “let me tell you what’s wrong with your statement.”  He continued, “You don’t mention American leadership. Americans should lead in this, America should be standing up. America should be building coalitions; we shouldn’t have statements like we are not going to intervene no matter what the situation is, such has been up until now the statements by the administration and the president.”

“In past experiences, those that I mentioned before, America has led. Yes, it has been multilateral and multinational, this is absolutely vital. We’re not leading Mr. Secretary,” said McCain.

As he did at another congressional hearing Tuesday, McCain criticized administration statements that the United States is still trying to figure out the make-up of the Syrian opposition. McCain said Tuesday that characterizations that al Qaeda is operating on the fringes of the Syrian opposition are delaying any potential assistance to rebels whom he sees as pursuing democratic freedoms.

He continued in the same vein on Wednesday saying of the opposition, “They are fighting because they want the same freedoms and rights that we guarantee in our Constitution.  I reject the argument that we, quote, ‘don’t know who they are.’”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian Military General Assassinated by Armed Terrorist Group

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(BEIRUT) -- A senior military general was assassinated Saturday outside his home in Damascus by an armed terrorist group, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency.

Brig. Gen. Issa al-Khouli, who was the head of a Syrian military hospital, was gunned down by three men as he left his home in the capital, the state news agency said.

Government officials say they believe it is one of the highest-ranking military officers killed since the Syrian uprising began.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syria: At Least 19 People Killed In Deadly Military Attack

Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images(LATAKIA, Syria) -- At least 19 people were killed Saturday and Sunday when Syrian warships joined forces with the military on an assault against anti-government protesters in the northern port city of Latakia.

BBC News reports that more than 1,700 people have been killed in the past six months as the country has been riddled with uprisings against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Nearly 20 tanks and at least two gunboats took part in the Latakia assaults that began Saturday.

Latakia has a Sunni Muslim majority and a population of about 600,000.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Treasury Department Slaps New Sanctions on Syria

Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. (US State Dept)(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration slapped new sanctions on Syria Thursday, part of an effort to ratchet up the pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to allow reforms and halt a brutal crackdown on protesters seeking his ouster.

The Treasury Department sanctioned Muhammad Hamsho, a member of the Syrian parliament and prominent businessman, and his company, the Hamsho International Group, for their role in supporting the Assad regime.

"Muhammad Hamsho earned his fortune through his connections to regime insiders, and during the current unrest, he has cast his lot with Bashar al-Asad, Mahir al-Asad and others responsible for the Syrian government's violence and intimidation against the Syrian people," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. "The sanctions we are applying today to Hamsho and his company are the direct consequence of his actions."

According to the Treasury Department, Hamsho has business interests in many sectors of the Syrian economy and has served as a frontman for Assad and his brother.

In recent months the United States has sanctioned over two dozen Syrian officials, including Assad himself, for their roles in the violence.

This latest round of sanctions comes as Syrian troops poured into the restive city of Hama this week, with reports of dozens killed. On Thursday, human rights activists claim that more than 100 people have been killed in Hama in just the past 24 hours, despite Assad's promise hours earlier that he would allow reforms, including allowing opposition parties to operate.

State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner dismissed the reforms, saying they "ring hollow" amid the continued violence.

The escalated violence this week spurred a condemnation from United Nations Security Council on Wednesday, overcoming longstanding Russian opposition to what it saw as meddling in Syria's internal affairs.

On Monday, the European Union levied its own round of sanctions on Syria. Following Wednesday's Security Council action, the British permanent representative to the United Nations suggested the world body could consider bolder steps including sanctions when it meets next week, if the violence continues.

The Obama administration is also drafting tougher sanctions on Syria which would hit its oil and gas sector, a lucrative source of funding for the regime.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


UN Security Council Finally Condemns Syrian Government

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- After months of silence, on Wednesday the United Nations Security Council officially condemned the Syrian government's violent crackdown of civilians who have been demanding an end to the authoritarian regime of President Bashar Assad.

While exact figures are difficult to verify because of a news blackout, the civilian death toll in Syria since March is estimated to be anywhere between 1,600 and 2,000, with as many 26,000 arrests.

The latest violence has occurred in the city of Hama, where at least 90 deaths have been reported in just a week.

As a result of this renewed assault, the UN Security Council adopted a presidential statement requiring the approval of all fifteen members who denounced the human rights violations committed by Assad's regime.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney stated that Assad was responsible for instability in Syria, adding, "We do not want to see him remain in Syria for stability's sake and, rather, we view him as the cause of instability in's safe to say that Syria would be a better place without President Assad."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Syrian Forces Launch Deadly Attacks for Second Straight Day

KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images(BEIRUT) -- Syrian security forces continued their violent attacks on opposition protesters for a second straight day, as the two-day death toll climbed above 70 people.

Monday's attacks claimed at least three lives, according to activists. The offensive comes on the heels of the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, which began Monday.

In attempts to suppress revolt against President Bashar al-Assad and his regime, Syrian government forces have launched relentless assaults on Hama and other cities in the southern Dara province while people begin Ramadan festivities.

The European Union and White House officials have openly condemned the attacks of the four-decade long dictatorship, which appears intent on stepping up violent measures to end a four-month-old uprising against the regime. At least 70 people were killed in simultaneous attacks on Sunday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Envoy to Syria Called to DC for Consultation

US Dept of State(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford has returned to Washington for consultations, the U.S. State Department said Monday.

Ford's departure, prior to Sunday's deadly attacks on protesters, comes as violence in Syria has worsened and as the United States and its allies prepare to step up the pressure on the Assad regime this week. Ford is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill later this week, and one official said he is expected to return to Syria next week.

Officials say the United States is preparing further punitive measures against the Syrian government, though one official ruled out closing the U.S. embassy in Damascus or kicking out the Syrian ambassador to Washington. On Monday, the European Union also announced new sanctions on Syria.

The United Nations Security Council was expected to meet Monday afternoon to discuss Syria and consider a long-standing British and French proposal to increase international pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to reform or step down. That effort has been blocked in the past by Russia and China, which hold veto power. A U.S. official says it is too soon to tell whether Monday's meeting will bear fruit.

Ford, who arrived in Damascus in January only after a recess appointment by President Obama in December, is expected to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday for a confirmation hearing. Last year Ford's nomination was blocked by Republican senators who said sending an envoy to Damascus would only reward the Assad regime for its bad behavior in the region.

In recent weeks, Ford has blunted that criticism by making bold statements criticizing Assad's violent response to the peaceful protests against his rule that have spread throughout Syria in recent months.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Increases Outreach to Syrian Opposition

Victoria Nuland. US Dept of State(WASHINGTON) -- The State Department says its embassy in Damascus, while denied meetings with the Syrian government, has stepped up its outreach to the country’s opposition as well as figures in exile.
“We're also beginning now to increase our own contacts with those brave Syrians who are standing up for change and their universal rights, those inside Syria and those outside Syria,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters Thursday.
“I don't think I want to go any further than that at this point, because the talks are obviously confidential, and we want to be able to continue to broaden and deepen those conversations,” she added when pressed for details.
Earlier, a senior administration official told ABC News that in recent months the U.S. had stepped up its efforts to provide training and equipment to Syrian democracy activists to get around government controls of the Internet, allowing the opposition to organize and communicate safely online.
“Syrians from all walks of life, from all professions, from all confessions are starting to come together and demand their rights. So we are interested in supporting them. We're interested in supporting that struggle,” Nuland said Thursday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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