Regime seeks to recover diplomatic, military ground

Syria’s national security chief, Hisham Ikhtiyar died on Friday of the injuries he sustained earlier this week during a bomb blast, an act that has pushed the regime — which has found fresh diplomatic support from Russia and China — to retaliate against the armed opposition.

Syrian television reported that Gen. Ikhtiyar became the fourth victim of the Wednesday blast in Damascus, when a high profile meeting was under way. The killings, which decapitated the top security leadership has triggered a furious response from the regime, which has struck hard at the armed opposition in key locations of the capital. Syrian state-run television is reporting that troops backed by tanks have cleared the Midan area of Damascus which had witnessed heavy fighting over the past five days. However, outside Damascus, the opposition’s Free Syrian Army (FSA) claimed on Thursday to have captured key crossing Bab al-Hawa on the Syrian-Turkish border. Iraq’s Alsumaria news site reported that the FSA was in control of the Albu Kamal border crossing between Syria and Iraq.

The government’s counteroffensive coincided with the diplomatic boost that the regime had received from Russia and China. At a meeting of the Security Council on Thursday, both countries, for a third time in a row, vetoed a western backed resolution that threatened to impose sanctions against Syria, if did not, within 10 days, withdraw troops and remove tanks and heavy weapons from population centers.

The resolution sought to “open the path to the pressure of sanctions and further to external military involvement in Syrian domestic affairs,” said Russia's U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin, after the Russian veto had been cast. “Their calculations to use the U.N. Security Council to further their plans to put their pressure on sovereign states will not pass,” he asserted.

Separately, in an interview with Russia Today, Mr. Churkin denounced the concept of “humanitarian intervention,” which, in many western circles, is cited as the basis to justify economic punishment or the use of force in countries such as Syria.

“You know, humanitarian intervention unfortunately only sounds humane, but the fact of the matter is that any military intervention for whatever reason is inevitably going to cause more bloodshed. And we know those greatest humanists in the world — U.S. and U.K. — intervened in Iraq, for instance, citing all sorts of noble pretexts, in that particular case — non-existent weapons of mass destruction. What it caused — 150 thousand civilian deaths alone, to say nothing about millions of refugees, displaced persons and the whole dislocation in the country. So, don’t be duped by humanitarian rhetoric,” he observed.

As the regime sought to recover some of the lost diplomatic and military ground, it also sought to squash speculation that President Assad was looking for a personal exit from the spiralling crisis.

Syrian Information Ministry on Friday denied as “totally baseless” media reports which cited the Russian Ambassador to France as saying Mr. Assad is ready to leave office in a “civilised way”.

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