Atul Aneja – The Hindu August 11, 2012
Syrian forces have foiled an attack by opposition fighters on Aleppo airport and tightened their grip on the city on Idlib as part of an overall offensive that is triggering a string of meetings among countries that wish to bring down the government of President Bashar Al Assad.
Syrian State television is reporting that government troops have also thwarted a possible attack by the opposition on Aleppo prison. The choice of the airport and the prison once again reveals the inclination of anti-regime fighters to go after spectacular targets that yield high media mileage. The motley of fighters grouped under the command of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have already been ousted from Aleppo’s Salaheddin district. However, they continue to remain embedded in some other parts of the city, Syria’s largest. Syrian security forces also claim that they have cleared the Ariha district of the northwestern city of Idlib, which has remained an opposition stronghold, during much of the course of the 17-month old anti-regime revolt.
Backed solidly by Iran, the Lebanese Hizbollah as well as Russia and China, the Syrian government’s grip on power appears strong — a situation that is causing the regime’s foes to revisit their tactics.
Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State of the United States was on Saturday in Turkey, where she met her counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu. After talks in Istanbul, she said that a working group would be set up with Turkey that would coordinate a response to the Syrian crisis.
Turkey has emerged as the frontline state that is giving direction to the anti-Assad campaign. A command and control center, with the help of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, has been established in the Turkish city of Adana that supports Syria’s anti-regime fighters.
On Friday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague offered nearly $8 million to the Syrian opposition that would be spent on the purchase of communication equipment including mobile and satellite phones as well as radar equipment. Mr. Hague said that the transfer of communication hardware would “help political activists overcome the regime’s communication’s blockade and ensure their message gets to the outside world”.
With the situation evolving rapidly — not necessarily in favour of the opposition — the Arab League is holding a meeting on Syria of foreign ministers in Jeddah on Sunday. These talks will be followed by a special summit of the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been personally invited by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia. Analysts say that this meeting may have a bearing on the Syrian situation as both countries, fully supporting opposing sides in the conflict, maybe inclined to work out a truce.
Recognising that Syria’s allies are standing firm, the U.S. administration has targeted Damascus and Hizbollah with fresh sanctions. Sanctions have been imposed against Syria’s state-run oil company Sytrol, because it delivered in April, $36 million worth of gasoline to Iran. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said that Iran was “actively advising, supplying, and assisting the Syrian security forces and regime-backed militias that are carrying out gross human rights abuses against the Syrian people.”