Four developments in the last 24 hours suggest that we are nearing a crucial tipping point in Syria.
1) Speaking at a think tank forum in Washington, Hillary Clinton accused Russia of sending attack Helicopters to Syria. Her charge reflects a deep frustration between Washington and Moscow and suggests that Russia is no where near to supporting a plan for political transition in Syria. Also, the UN observers accused the Syrians of using helicopters to attack civilians, so this is a very loaded accusation. (NYT http://nyti.ms/Kzot6q)
2) UN Observers were repulsed from site of potential massacre. “The United Nations says members of its observer team in Syria were attacked by angry crowds as they tried to reach an embattled mountain village near President Bashar Assad’s hometown. The vehicles also were later shot at.” (USA Today http://usat.ly/Kzour0
3) Massing of Troops Near Aleppo. “Clinton, as well, warned about a massing of Syrian forces near Aleppo over the last two days, saying such a deployment could be a ‘red line’ for Syria’s northern neighbor Turkey ‘in terms of their strategic and national interests. We are watching this very carefully,’ she said.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/Kzot6q)
4) Top UN Peacekeeping official says Syria is in a civil war. “‘Clearly what is happening is that the government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory in several cities to the opposition and wants to retake control of these areas,” said Herve Lasdous. (AlertNet http://bit.ly/KRRFtH)
Wave of Attacks Target Iraqi Shiites
There were several bombings and shootings across Iraq today, targeting mostly shiite communities. This was the worst series of attacks since March. “A coordinated series of attacks struck Shiite Muslims in the capital on Wednesday morning as they began gathering to mark the death of a revered imam who was the Prophet Muhammad’s great-grandson. In the south, explosions hit two Shiite mosques and a restaurant where police officers had gathered for breakfast. By midmorning, the death toll nationwide was more than 50 people and more than 100 were wounded, according to security officials. According to an Interior Ministry official, four parked cars detonated across Baghdad, aimed at Shiite pilgrims celebrating the death of Imam Moussa Kadhim. The pilgrimage culminates on Saturday, raising the specter of further violence as more pilgrims descend on Baghdad in the coming days.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/LTj8a2)