Diplomatic purdah for conflict-torn Syria

Over 300 deaths in clashes between the army and protestors against the rule of President Bashar Assad have pushed the international community to raise its voice against the violence being perpetrated on Syria’s civilian population.

­The crackdown on opposition protests that has dragged on for five months has pushed Syria to the brink of civil war.

Opposition activists are reporting intensifying artillery and gunfire in the town of Deir al-Zor where a massive military assault was launched against Sunni protestors, at least 42 of whom were killed there on Sunday alone.

As of today, an escalating government crackdown on protesters has brought increasing isolation of Assad’s regime, most importantly among its own Arab neighbors.

Last Wednesday, the UN Security Council unanimously condemned the Syrian government’s intensified crackdown against rioting protesters and demanded that all parties immediately cease violence.

However Russia, a UN Security Council member, opposed a resolution sought by European nations and the US that would have condemned the unrest in Syria. Instead, the Security Council issued a presidential statement on 3 August, expressing “grave concern” at the deaths and human rights abuses.

Ankara, for its part, has told Bashar Assad that he risks the same fate as Egypt’s former president, Hosni Mubarak, who is on trial in Cairo on charges of corruption and ordering the killing of protesters during an uprising very similar to the one taking place now in Syria.

Turkey, which has an 850-kilometer border with Syria and centuries-old kinship links with the country, as well as a common history and culture, has said it has had enough and wants an end to the blood-letting and mass arrests in its neighboring country. The statement is being seen as a veiled threat to break off diplomatic relations with Damascus.

A souring of relations with Turkey means Damascus would be left with no allies with the possibly exception of Iran.  
For its part, Damascus has promised to give a robust answer to Ankara if it turns a blind eye to cold-blooded murders of civilians and law enforcement officers by what it dubbed “terrorist groups” organizing the rebellion.

Saudi Arabia announced it is withdrawing its ambassador from Damascus in protest at the way the Syrian army has dealt with the protestors, saying Syria had better choose a wiser path and implement the reforms being demanded.

Jordan also expressed growing concern and urged Damascus to return to dialogue with the opposition, though stressing that Amman does not plan to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs.

Arab nations have condemned the continuing crackdown by Syrian forces.

In the meantime, hackers say they have penetrated the site of Syria’s Defense Ministry and published a message there in support of the rebels. They said the exploit was the work of the infamous Anonymous group, well-known for their active support of the WikiLeaks project.

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