West stirring war in Syria: China paper

2012-02-20 13:00

Beirut - China's main newspaper accused Western countries of stirring civil war in Syria while two Iranian warships docked at a Syrian naval base, underscoring rising international tensions over the near year-long crisis.

Despite a continued government crackdown on the opposition in cities across the country, President Bashar Assad forged ahead with plans to hold a referendum at the end of the week.

Syrian government forces maintained their siege of pro-opposition neighbourhoods of Homs, a western city at the heart of the revolt. Opposition activists reported sporadic morning shelling of Baba Amro district.

Security forces also mounted a campaign of arrests and raids in two suburbs of Deraa city and loud gunfire was heard, activists said. The reports could not be independently verified.

The Monday morning action followed a weekend which saw one of the biggest anti-Assad demonstrations yet in the capital as the pro-democracy uprising against his 11 year-rule neared its first anniversary.

Security forces have killed at least 5 000 people, according to human rights groups, in a campaign to crush the revolt while the Assad government says it has lost more than 2 000 soldiers and security agents in what it describes as a struggle against foreign-backed terrorists,

All sides to blame

The conflict has also pitted Western and Gulf-led Arab powers against Assad allies Russia, China and Iran.

The former have condemned Assad for the bloodshed and called for him to step down. Beijing and Moscow say all sides are to blame for the violence and the crisis should be resolved through talks, not foreign intervention.

China's Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, in a front page commentary on Monday, said: "If Western countries continue to fully support Syria's opposition, then in the end a large-scale civil war will erupt and there will be no way to thus avoid the possibility of foreign armed intervention."

A Chinese envoy met Assad in Damascus on Saturday and backed his plan to hold a referendum this coming Sunday on a new constitution which would lead to multi-party parliamentary elections within 90 days.

Syria's official SANA news agency said about 14 600 000 people throughout Syria were eligible to take part in the referendum.

Deputy Minister of Interior for Civil Affairs, General Hassan Jalali said 13 835 offices were devoted to the poll, including ones opened on land borders and at airports to enable all citizens to vote.

Peaceful solution

The West and Syrian opposition figures have dismissed the plan as joke, saying it is impossible to have valid election amid the continuing repression.

Assad has ruled Syria for 11 years after succeeding his father Hafez on his death. The Assad family belongs to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, in a majority Sunni country, and there are fears the uprising could break down into a full sectarian conflict.

Foreign ministers at a G20 industrialised and emerging nations meeting in Mexico were increasingly worried about whether a peaceful solution could be found.

"There is grave concern about the fact that existing structures of the United Nations have not delivered an outcome," Australia's foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, told reporters in Los Cabos, Mexico.

The West has ruled out any Libya-style military intervention but the Arab League, led by Saudi Arabia, has indicated some of its member states were prepared to arm the opposition.

In Washington the senior US military officer, General Martin Dempsey, said intervening in Syria would be "very difficult" because it was not like Libya.


Syria's army is very capable, with a sophisticated, integrated air defence system and chemical and biological weapons, Dempsey said. It was also not clear who or what the fragmented opposition was exactly, he said.

Meanwhile two Iranian naval ships docked at the Syrian port of Tartous on Saturday, Iran's state-run Press TV reported. The ships were said to be providing training for Syrian naval forces under an agreement signed a year ago.

Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi, quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency, said: "Our ships passed through the Suez canal and it is Iran's right to have a presence in international waters."

With Shi'te-led Iran already at odds with the United States, Europe and Israel over its nuclear programme, the deployment was likely to add to Western concerns that the Syria crisis could boil over into a regional conflict if it not resolved soon.

A so-called "Friends of Syria" conference is scheduled to take place in Tunisia this Friday, bringing together Western and Arab powers.

The group was formed at the instigation of France and the United States after Russia and China shot down a proposed resolution at the UN Security Council calling for Assad to relinquish power.

Australia's Rudd, speaking in Mexico, said the group aims "to place maximum pressure on president Assad to go, to end the butchery that we see day by day unfolding in Syria and to make sure we have a durable and peaceful political transition".

  • Kobus - 2012-02-20 13:47

    Dont think the West is to blame in this instance at all. Its because of countries like China and Russia whom supports these regimes that they have not taken action already. And in the meanwhile these governments are slaugthering their own people, all for the sake of staying in power :(

      Fidel - 2012-02-20 14:02

      Who was/is supporting the regimes in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Morroco, Jordan, Tunisia,Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Oman, Yemen, etc. I haven't included the STAN countries in that list, e.g, Khazakstan, etc. The west loves these regimes, it can't get enough of them. It manufactures them wherever it goes. Don't let facts get in the way of a spurious argument!

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-02-20 16:01

      What facts ? I don't see how getting tough on governments who are actively killing their own people through their own defence force is a negative . They supported Tunisia,Algeria, Eqypt and encouraged greater democratic reforms which is what the people wanted . If Saudi's went on mass protest and their monarchy brutally suppressed their demonstrations with large scale lethal force from their army then a similar rhetoric would happen but you can't stick and paste foreign policy as each country has a unique paradigm . Im fairly impressed you think 'the west' can manufacture regimes at will and somehow they created the so-called Arab spring , occums razor would suggest that its really the people who simply tired of these regimes and demanding change from stagnent dictatorships . I neither see the same repugnance at the same 'support' from countries like China and Russia but i suppose that bias is somehow overlooked, much like most counter evidence in a witchhunt.

      wesleywt - 2012-02-20 16:21

      @Fidel So you are supporter of the evil who kill innocent women and children? I'd rather be on the side of democracy, than regimes that repress freedom and choice.

      Fred - 2012-02-20 17:22

      Exactly right.

      Fred - 2012-02-20 17:28

      Fidel, as has been said to you elsewhere, the Middle East has only had brutal, self-centered, chauvinistic dictatorships until now. As has also been said to you elsewhere, you were wrong in Libya, you're wrong in Syria, and you're wrong in Iran. The Middle East is freeing itself whether or not you understand what is really happening. One after another deposits are being removed ... by the people wanting nothing more than the right to vote and decide their own destinies. You're opposing this. Not only are you opposing this, but you're actually denying the people of the region the help they're asking for, and siding with the 17 countries out of the 151 on Earth who are ignorant and heartless to their requests. You're also overlooking that the Arab League of 350 million Muslims is driving the initiative in Syria, and Turkey is the second-largest Nato member, a country of 73 million Muslims. So you're framework is completely out of touch with reality. It's plain wrong.

      Fidel - 2012-02-20 20:17

      @Wesley The regime that has been slaughtering innocent children and women has been the USA and her NATO allies. Western style democracy hasn't stopped these countries from going on colonial rampages.

      Fidel - 2012-02-20 20:22

      @Fred The tyrannic Arab League isn't representing anyone.

      Fred - 2012-02-20 23:56

      Yeah right Fidel. You've just demeaned 350 million Muslims in Arab League countries. Dismissing huge swathes of the world's population to support your point just doesn't work. It's silly, really.

      Fred - 2012-02-20 23:59

      Regarding your response to Wesley, Fidel, the US and Nato countries go to great lengths to avoid civilians casualties. This is well known. Your heroes the Middle Eastern despots, on the other hand, thrive on civilian blood. They're old-style vanquishers who are being overthrown one by one. You were wrong in Libya. You're wrong in Syria. And you'll likely be wrong in Iran unless you wake up and see what is really happening.

      Fidel - 2012-02-21 02:34

      Raining down white phosphorous on UN schools was just a mistake; Carpet bombing villages, well that just collateral damage. Someone once called this "the liberal defense of murder". everyone Nato kill is an accident, They're just spreading love and democracy. Heck, if it makes you feel better, go on indulge urself... Have you seen the Iraqi war log files that Bradley Manning is being prosecuted for. Have a look at this link on U.S drones attacking people coming to the aid of those they'd bombed and even targetting their funerals?

      Fred - 2012-02-21 08:27! Hahahaha! Fidel, that's not a credible website. Are you going to answer the question: what do you mean that Israel is a refuge for Jews, and that Israel is one big bullseye?

  • Michael - 2012-02-20 14:01

    Its actually not an election, but a vote to support a new constitution dimwits. Just a yes or no for the new document, no canvassing by candidates necessary. You can look at the full document here and judge its merits for yourself: Foolish politicians are busy putting together all the elements for a coming "perfect storm" here. Many countries are already supporting the rebels in terms of funding etc. Its also likely that the special forces (SAS etc) are already busy behind the lines. It is telling that on occasions the confused thinking in the west lets slip: "General Dempsey said it was not clear who or what the fragmented opposition was" This new constitution should start a needed reform process in Syria as it provides for multiparty and free elections. What is needed is that those who are determined to grab power and those encouraging them stand down. Russia and China will in turn ensure the government stands down. Then this crisis will be defused and the potential for a major catastrophe will be averted. Rudd is just another idiot who has lost his village. Its not about Assad fool but about a much bigger game that is taking on ominous dimensions now.

      Fidel - 2012-02-20 14:27

      Well articulated, it's about the balance of power in the Middle East. I also cannot understand why Syrians or the insurgents aren't encouraged to talk with their governments.

      wesleywt - 2012-02-20 16:23

      Not well articulated. A lot of made up crap with no evidence supporting it what so ever. Its only a matter of time before another parasitic dictator falls. The time of the dictator is over.

      Fred - 2012-02-20 17:31

      While the Assad regime is killing demonstrators with sniper-fire and detaining and torturing thousands more. Yeah right. Would you have supported the Apartheid regime if it held a so-called referendum under these conditions? I hope not.

  • Michael - 2012-02-21 10:01

    Could never follow any logical argument could you wesleysht and fred, nor provide any argument back.

      Fred - 2012-02-22 07:47

      Would you have supported the Apartheid regime if it held a referendum while it was killing, detaining and torturing people? And would you have trusted the outcome?

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