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Published: Thursday, 9/6/2012

Turkey: Slaughter in Syria amounts to ‘state terrorism'

Iran accused of flying weapons to Assad forces

BLADE NEWS SERVICES

BEIRUT — Turkey accused Syria of "state terrorism" Wednesday after a sharp spike in the death toll from the Syrian civil war, and Iran came under new scrutiny with the United States alleging Tehran is flying weapons to President Bashar Assad's regime across Iraqi airspace.

With violence escalating in the nearly 18-month-old crisis, strains rippled across the region as Egypt's president urged Assad to take heed from the Arab Spring uprisings.

"The Syrian regime must learn from recent history," Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi Morsi said, alluding to the authoritarian regimes that fell in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen in the Arab Spring uprisings.

But in Syria, neither side seems able to gain a significant advantage in the fighting that has killed 23,000 people, according to activists' estimates.

Turkey has become one of the strongest critics of Assad and is host to Syrian opposition groups as well 80,000 of the more than 200,000 refugees who have fled to surrounding countries to escape the bloodshed.

"The regime has become one of state terrorism," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. "Unfortunately, as usual, the international community is merely watching the slaughter, massacre, and the elimination of Muslims."

The Syrian government's crackdown has led to worldwide condemnation and sanctions, weakened the economy, and left Assad an international pariah just as he was trying to open up his country and modernize the economy. His few remaining allies include Iran, Russia, and China.

U.S. officials said Iran has resumed shipping military equipment to Syria over Iraqi airspace to bolster Assad's embattled regime.

The State Department said Wednesday that Iraq has an obligation under U.N. Security Council resolutions to insist that Iranian planes suspected of flying arms to Syria over Iraqi airspace land so the cargo can be inspected.

The flights were suspended in March, according to U.S. officials, after U.S. objections. But they resumed in July after an explosion killed several senior members of Assad's government. The officials said U.S. intelligence assessments indicated the flights carried weapons and military cargo.

"It's something we've raised with the Iraqis in great detail," said Patrick Ventrell, deputy State Department spokesman, referring to the flights.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq told a group of visiting U.S. senators that the Iranians had assured him the flights carry only humanitarian aid, and the United States had yet to prove military equipment and weapons were being shipped.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, (I., Conn.) said Iraq's failure to stop the flights could threaten its long-term relationship with the United States as well as aid it could receive as part of a 2008 strategic pact between the two nations.

"Bottom line, this kind of problem with these Iranian overflights can make it more difficult to proceed with the Strategic Framework Agreement in the manner that the prime minister and we would like to see happen," Mr. Lieberman said.

Tommy Vietor, National Security Council spokesman at the White House, said Tehran "will stop at nothing to support a Syrian regime that is murdering its own people."

The United States and other nations are also upset that China and Russia have used veto powers in the U.N. Security Council to block actions that could have led to sanctions against Assad's regime. China says the civil war must be resolved through talks, not outside pressure.

"It is no secret that we have been disappointed by Russia and China's actions blocking tougher U.N. Security Council resolutions, and we hope to continue to unite behind a real path forward to end the violence in Syria," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at a news conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.



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