Obama recognises Syrian rebels

2012-12-12 09:05

Washington - President Barack Obama proclaimed Syria's newly reframed opposition as the "legitimate" representative of the nation's people on Tuesday, in the most significant US intervention in the conflict.

As Washington cranked up pressure on beleaguered President Bashar Assad, the Obama administration also blacklisted the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, which officials here fear seeks to hijack the revolution, as a terrorist group.

It was another day of carnage inside Syria, meanwhile, as scores of civilians from Assad's minority sect were reported killed, in what appeared to be the largest scale revenge attacks yet against Alawites.

The United States has edged slowly towards recognising the opposition Syrian National Council, and its move follows those of France, Britain, Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council regional grouping.

The process was slowed by concerns that the group, recently reconstituted under US pressure, did not genuinely represent all sectors of Syrian society, had links to extremists, and did not fully subscribe to democratic principles.

"We have made a decision that the Syrian opposition coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population, that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people," Obama told ABC News in an interview.

Extreme tendencies

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been expected to make the announcement at a Friends of the Syrian People meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco, on Wednesday but could not travel owing to illness.

Washington has so far only provided humanitarian, non-lethal aid to the rebels, officially declining to send arms, a position White House spokesperson Carney reiterated on Tuesday.

The US administration made clear that it was differentiating between the Council and another group, al-Nusra, which it sees as having extreme tendencies.

"There is a small element of those that oppose the Assad regime, that in fact are affiliated with al-Qaeda in Iraq and we have designated them, al-Nusra, as a terrorist organiaation," Obama said in the interview.

Though a minority, al-Nusra has been one of the most effective rebel groups fighting to overthrow Assad, raising concerns that hardline extremists are hijacking the 21-month-old revolt.

The front's fighters, many of them jihadist volunteers from around the Islamic world, were instrumental in the fall of the army's massive Sheikh Suleiman base in northern Syria on Monday after a months-long siege.

Massacre site

The group has claimed responsibility for recent suicide bombings that killed scores of people, and has said it hopes to replace the Assad family's four-decade hold on power with a strict Islamic state.

The strike on Alawites came in bomb attacks in the village of Aqrab in the central province of Hama and killed or wounded at least 125 civilians, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"We cannot know whether the rebels were behind this attack, but if they were, this would be the largest-scale revenge attack against Alawites," members of a Shiite sect in Sunni-majority Syria, said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

Aqrab is near Houla, a majority Sunni Muslim village where 108 people, including 49 children and 34 women, were massacred on 25 May in what was widely blamed on pro-regime militias despite denials from Damascus.

Washington also on Tuesday said it was now less concerned than last week that Assad could resort to using chemical weapons stockpiles against rebels.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said Syria had not taken any new steps in recent days that signal a readiness to use its arsenal.

Toll topping 42 000

"At this point the intelligence has really kind of levelled off. We haven't seen anything new indicating any aggressive steps to move forward in that way," Panetta told reporters aboard his plane before landing in Kuwait.

International military chiefs have met in London to discuss the Syria conflict, a diplomatic source said after a media report that they discussed plans to train rebels and give air and naval support.

A British diplomatic source confirmed that the military leaders had held talks, but played down the idea that they discussed military intervention against the Assad regime.

"As far as I know they didn't explore options in any detail, certainly they didn't explore options for military intervention," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Inside Syria, and apart from the Aqrab attack, at least 68 people were killed on Tuesday, the Observatory said.

With the total death toll from Syria's agony now topping 42 000, according to the Observatory's figures, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said the number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries and the wider Arab world had now passed half a million.

  • AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-12-12 09:36

    . GREAT NEWS !!! Let's hope every decent country in the world, will do same !!

      Malose-Nyatlo - 2012-12-12 10:20

      Time for action.

  • fidelity.mcoshi - 2012-12-12 09:43

    This so called SNC has no legitimacy among the fighting Syrians, never mind among the rest of Syria! How nice of the US to determine who is the "legitimate representative of the Syrian people." They've always been pretty good at deciding who should rule in other countries. Imam for Syrian president. Nominated by USA and west, supported by democratic Gulf countries. It is representative of foreign interests and positioning.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-12-12 09:55

      Tell what actions the US could have taken that would have met with so-called approval . Absolutely none is my guess and the very core of this nationalist bigotry , anti-americanism in this case.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-12-12 10:28

      Fidel, You on purpose, cloud the Syria issue with irrelevant stuff. WHY would you not grant the Syrian people self determination, but instead support a MINORITY regime. You did the same with Libya The problem why 42 000 Syrians are dead, is that Europe and the USA, did NOTHING to help the Syrian people get rid of their tyrant, except attending some pretty useless 'friends of Syria' meetings.

      fidelity.mcoshi - 2012-12-12 10:37

      "anti-americanism in this case." It's anti-American Imperialism to be exact! How about letting Syrians decide their future and encouraging dialogue between the warring parties, making every effort to halt the conflict, rather than opportunism? Support for these totally illegitimate forces in Syria by Western governments reveals the barbarism at the heart of Western policy in the Middle East which still seems to be based in a time when the West was ruling over the region with imperial racist arrogance. This is the Syrian opposition that explodes truck bombs.

      fidelity.mcoshi - 2012-12-12 10:51

      Anthony, what is irrelevant about my post? I have nor power to grant Syrians nor deny them their legitimacy. I support the sovereignty of all countries to be able to exercise their civil responsibilities free from outside interference. My opposition to both western and Gulf interference in Syria isn't based on some love for the Syrian government(another false binary), but against foreign sponsored interference and destabilisation of countries not following Washington's dicta in general. Watch this: Gen Wesley Clark Reveals US Plan To Invade Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somali... He details a new plan to attack 7 countries: IRAQ LIBYA SOMALIA SYRIA LEBANON SUDAN And his last quote 'finishing off 'IRAN'. This is the western aggression (sometimes using proxies) and Imperialism that I am against! See also: ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI THE GRAND CHESSBOARD American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-12-12 11:24

      Fidel, You conveniently forget; That at the start of this latest uprising, the Russians had/have a naval base in Syria, where there are thousands of Russian troops. That the Russians have for years now, been shipping tons and tons of military hardware into Syria, amongst them, rifles, amunition, tanks, rockets and gunship helicopters. The Russians know damn well that NONE of this stuff is used to protect Syria's borders, but is used against its own population !!!!! Besides this, Russia send thousands of Russian 'experts' and 'advisers' to Syria, to help the assad terrorists MURDER its OPPOSITION !! And than you and the lunatics of the violent left, get all heated up when the FSA has a ( possibly Western made ) anti aircraft misssile!! So, than to say; American barbarism, is just lunacy !!

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-12-12 11:28

      Fascism is incompatible with American values , something you confuse with American imperialism and racist arrogance .How arrogant to support democratic representative governance, liberties , human rights and those who seek these reforms. This up-side down view is what is at the root of the progressive lefts alliance with tyrants and totalitarian thugs .How quickly they forget their own values and the founding of them in the American history of anti-imperial rule which still guides the US . Fortunately American foreign policy isn't dictated by its enemies. Its absurd. 'Each of us must resist the temptation to yield to the tyranny of relativism, a tyranny which encourages us to pursue moral judgments that are convenient, instead of moral judgments that are true.' - Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-12-12 11:36

      Fidel, """but against foreign sponsored interference and destabilisation of countries not following Washington's dicta in general""" The problem is, that you just make up , this WESTERN 'interference' WHAT MORE should the US and Europe do, to show they have soooo little interest in Syria . Their attitude is simple, The Syrians themselves will get rid of assad, so why bother !! So, here we have a massive Russian interference, interference by Iran, and than all kind of armed gangs, terrorist groups, pimps and other scum, and..................all you leftists lunatics talk about is ' Western interference!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is NUTS !!!!

      fidelity.mcoshi - 2012-12-12 12:20

      Fascism is incompatible with American values , something you confuse with American imperialism and racist arrogance" Are these same values that prompts the US to sell billions worth of weapons to the decadent Gulf monarchies. The rise of the United States has been one long series of massacres, broken (legal) treaties, lynch mobs and, in a word, the demonstration that force rules. That violence trumps ideals. I watch what they DO and not what they SAY and history is littered with US support for some of the worst regimes to have ever walked the earth. Morality can't be that flexible! Anthony, the Gulf countries arming the rebels in Syria are not nation states. They are a family business that owes their existence to the USA. Their policy vis a vis Syria, Iran etc, is American policy. The US is behind this, just as it's behind the suppression of democracy in Bahrain. I don't know why it's difficult for you to see this (cognitive dissonance?), when the neo con hawks in Washington have made their plans public.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-12-12 13:53

      Life in relativistic conspiracy bubble must be amazing ,where accountability can be palmed off like suppression in Bahrain must be the US's fault and not the Bahrainian regime or Gulf state monarchies are created by the US. They couldn't possibly have any stake in it , nor could any regional politics or history have any influence . Do you take a position for stability or do you take a position for democracy , what are the variables to foreign policy decision . Revisionist pighole history and ommision. Convenient moral judgements indeed , a world where only some human beings and states can be culpable for their actions. Moral grey area's don't exist and difficult decisions are easy to make, where human rights abusers are really the good guys and genocidal expansionists aren't that bad . Doublespeak as a philosophy.

  • derek.bredenkamp.3 - 2012-12-12 12:23

    So Obama can proclaim who the legitimate governmant of any country in the World should be? Is this what they call American style democracy? You can vote for whoever you like just as long as we approve.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-12-12 18:07

      . Here we have the lunatics of the violent left, falling over each other, to criticize anyone who dares to harm their hero!! Their hero===assad His father came to power through violence, and than on his death-bed , GAVE the country to his son!! These assads come from a tiny tribe, not even representing 5 % of the population. assad sr and this current thug, are together, responsible for the MURDER of at the very least 70 000- SEVENTY THOUSAND , mostly UNARMED CIVILIANS This assad fires rockets into apartment blocks, where 'his own' people live!!! He has his terrorist soldiers fire live amunition on women and children out of gunship helicopters!!! He has his criminal drop cluster bombs out of aircraft onto residential areas. ALL this, for ONLY ONE MAN TO STAY IN POWER !!!! SHAME ON YOU !!!!!

  • fidelity.mcoshi - 2012-12-12 13:27

    Al-Nusra, which is the biggest fighting and most extremist force in Syria doesn't recognise this so called SNC, the US doesn't recognise Al-Nusra, but recognises the SNC. Syrians have not been asked who their representatives are. The US has always been a nation of foreign policy retards!

  • saint.smithie - 2012-12-12 17:32

    It takes one rebel to recognise another!

      saint.smithie - 2012-12-12 17:36

      Must add to this, I don't like Asad either, so who will they replace him with? The same lot that is currently running Egypt.

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