It's "a matter of not if but when" and "it's a matter of weeks" and, in another variant, "it's a matter of days" and, furthermore, we've got to back the Sunnis fighting the Syrian government because "we need to get on the right side of history." (well, that's not fair -- we had to get on the right side of history in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, a year or so ago, but you don't here that phrase much anymore, perhaps because history is turning out to be a little more complicated than some assumed it was and would be).
But what about Syria's neighbors? Maliki and his Shi'a-run government are not going to help the Sunnis overthrow the Alawites in Syria. The Lebanese government, terrorized by Hezbollah, is not going to. Iran remains Syria's unswerving supporter. Israel can only benefit not from a change in regime, but in a whittling down of the power and military might of the current regime -- steadily, in long-drawn-out fashion. And Erdogan, in Turkey, has found that the Syrians in Turkey are not winning friends in Antakya or elsewhere, and the beareded Libyans and Pakistanis and Yemenis and Chechens spouting Al Qaeda rhetoric, also part of that "Syrian refugee" flow, are not impressing their Turkish hosts.
Here's the story: in today's New York Times:
Syrian Foreign Minister Criticizes Countries Backing Rebels
BEIRUT, Lebanon — As fierce fighting continued in Aleppo and its outskirts on Sunday, the Syrian foreign minister, on a visit to Iran, lashed out at Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, blaming them for the escalation of violence and saying that their backing of armed groups in Syria was blocking a path toward “political dialogue.”
The comments by Walid al-Moallem, an echo of those made by Syria’s most important ally, Russia, reflected the increasing pressures on the Syrian government as its fights a growing and emboldened armed insurgency on several fronts, most crucially in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city.
Mr. Moallem said fighters from Egypt, Iraq, Libya and Tunisia had entered Syria across the Turkish border and he called on Lebanon to help block the infiltration of “terrorists.”
“The campaign on the international stage against Syria will not stop,” Mr. Moallem said. During the news conference, he also said that countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were working with Israel in an effort to overthrow the Syrian government.
“Israel is the mastermind of all in this crisis,” Mr. Moallem said, according to The Associated Press.
His comments came as the Syrian Army used tanks and artillery to pound opposition strongholds in Aleppo, continuing its barrage on a city that for days has been steeling for an assault, residents and activists said. It remained unclear whether the attack, which activists said was focused mainly on the southwestern neighborhood of Salaheddin, was the beginning of a broader campaign.
In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Sunday, a leader of a Syrian opposition group appealed for countries opposed to the Syrian government to provide rebels with heavy weapons.
“The rebels are fighting with primitive weapons. We want weapons that we can stop tanks and planes with. This is what we want,” said Abdelbasset Sida, the head of the Syrian National Council, according to Reuters.
The clashes came after days of warnings from the international community about the human toll in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial center, as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces massed on its outskirts. For days, rebel fighters have been pouring into Salaheddin and other neighborhoods in Aleppo, which had remained quiet for much of the uprising, which started in March 2011.
On Saturday, Russia, Mr. Assad’s most important ally, joined the chorus, warning of tragedy as it chastised the rebels’ foreign backers for failing to pressure the opposition to end the violence.
Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, called on Mr. Assad’s government to “make the first moves” in ceasing military action. But he also accused Western countries and some of Syria’s neighbors of not putting enough pressure on the armed opposition to stop fighting.
Speaking in Sochi, Russia, Mr. Lavrov said that those countries “encourage, support and direct the armed fight against the regime.”
Although he did not name any countries, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been helping the Syrian rebels obtain weapons and American officials say United States intelligence officers are operating in southern Turkey to help decide which groups receive the arms.
Russia said this month that it would halt any weapons shipments to Mr. Assad’s government. On Saturday, however, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it would not cooperate with a European Union effort to stop and search ships suspected of carrying weapons to Syria.
A ministry spokesman said Russia considered the plan to inspect ships a violation of other countries’ sovereignty.
In comments to the Interfax news service, Mr. Lavrov dismissed the notion that Russia would grant Mr. Assad asylum, saying it was a rumor started to make Russia look bad.
“There is no such agreement, we are not even thinking about this matter,” he said. “It’s a provocation by those who want to put all the blame for what’s happening in Syria on us and on China, because supposedly we’re blocking someone there.
“We are blocking only one thing: an attempt to allow people to support one side in an internal conflict through a U.N. Security Council resolution.”