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Both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin are following a similar procedure that allows them to stretch the boundaries of legality without worrying about consequences from the United States, Republican Sen. Bob Corker said Sunday.
Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, blasted President Barack Obama's foreign policy on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, saying he just hopes they do nothing to overtly "embarrass" the U.S. He drew a connection between the current U.S. response to Russia's moves in Ukraine and the response to Assad's use of chemical weapons in Syria last August.
"I've urged in every way that I can for this administration to go ahead and, again, push back now. It's going to be too late," said Corker, who argued Friday the U.S. should consider sending lethal aid to Ukraine in addition to their non-lethal steps.
"Just like we did in Syria, where in essence, let's face it — I hate to say such a crass thing on Easter Sunday morning — the wisest thing that Assad did really was to kill 1,200 people with chemical weapons. Because, in essence, we said, 'Don't embarrass us anymore that way. You can go ahead and kill another 60,000 people with barrel bombs and by other means, but don't embarrass us.'
Syria has submitted a "more specific" list of its chemical weapons to the global regulator overseeing the destruction of its stockpile after discrepancies were reported by inspectors on the ground, officials said.
Damascus agreed to give up its chemical arsenal after Washington threatened military action following the death of hundreds of Syrians in a sarin gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus during Syria's civil war last August. But Damascus is several weeks behind schedule in handing over its lethal toxins.
A diplomat said questions had been raised by member states at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) about the details of its chemical arsenal submitted by President Bashar al-Assad's government last year.
The officials said the original list had been based on estimates, not exact amounts of toxic agents found in storage and production facilities across Syria.
The joint U.N./OPCW mission in Syria found "discrepancies between what they found, and what was on the original declaration", one diplomat told Reuters.
OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan confirmed a revised list had been submitted. "For some of the stockpile, ranges of quantities had been provided. Now they are being replaced with specific amounts," he said.
The exact amounts came to light after inspectors visited the sites, took inventory, and packaged the chemicals for transport to the port town of Latakia, he said. Official could not provide specific details about the discrepancies.
Press Statement by the Joint Special Representative for Syria Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi
Recent discussions between the Syrian authorities and a Negotiating Committee representing the civilians and fighters still trapped in the Old city of Homs as well as the inhabitants of the Al-Waer neighbourhood were followed with keen interest and great hope by people all over Syria as well as elsewhere in the region and the world. The Government Media in Damascus wrote very positively about the process.
It is a matter of deep regret that negotiations were brutally stopped and violence is now rife again when a comprehensive agreement seemed close at hand. It is alarming that Homs, whose people have suffered so much throughout these past three years is again the theatre of death and destruction.
We have reached out to all those who could help put an end to this tragedy. We urge all the parties to return to the negotiating table and complete the deal which was on the verge of being signed.
When the Syrian civil war began more than three years ago, Mariam Hamou took to Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about the brutality of the Syrian government and encourage Western governments to halt the violence. From her home in London, Ontario, she is still pursuing the same mission today, and no closer to achieving it.
Hamou and her Toronto-based colleague, Bayan Khatib, work for the media office of the Syrian National Coalition, the official governing body of the Syrian opposition. They plan media campaigns, arrange speaking tours by dissident Syrians to Islamic community centers and college campuses in North America, post -- and argue -- on Facebook and Twitter, doing anything that helps spread news from the war to a wider audience.
With few journalists or outsiders able to cover the war from inside Syria, activists have become a key source of information. Their efforts -- alongside a network of Syrians who deliver a steady flow of videos and images of suffering from the battlefield -- have succeeded in shaping public opinion on the conflict. But after more than three years, Hamou and other activists around the world aiming to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad are frustrated with their lack of a winning strategy. Western governments -- and their citizens -- have failed to intervene with forceful action. And no one, least of all the activists themselves, seems to know how to change that.
"I can't even tell you what the answer is," said Hamou during a phone interview from Ontario, the exasperation evident in her voice. "I have no idea."
While not all activists support military intervention, foreign governments have largely focused on whether or not to dedicate supplies and manpower to Syria. The Syrian National Coalition works with the Free Syrian Army, a moderate, Western-supported rebel group, and has called for increased foreign weapons shipments, including anti-aircraft missiles. The coalition was also a strong backer of proposed airstrikes against the Assad government following its use of chemical weapons last August. With its media campaigns, it aims to encourage civilians around the world to put pressure on their governments to get involved in the war.
Online videos show Syrian rebels using what appear to be U.S. anti-tank rockets, weapons experts say, the first significant American-built armaments in the country's civil war.
None of that equipment, however, is seen as enough to turn the tide of battle in a now broadly stalemated war, with Assad dominant in Syria's central cities and along the Mediterranean coast and the rebels in the interior north and east.
It was not possible to independently verify the authenticity of the videos or the supplier of the BGM-71 TOW anti-tank rockets shown in the videos. Some analysts suggested they might have been provided by another state such as Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, probably with Washington's acquiescence.
U.S. officials declined to discuss the rockets, which appeared in Syria around the same time Reuters reported that Washington had decided to proceed with plans to increase aid, including delivery of lower-level weaponry.
U.S. officials say privately there remain clear limits to American backing for the insurgency, given the widely dominant role played by Islamist militants. A proposal to supply MANPAD surface-to-air missiles was considered but rejected.
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the Obama administration was giving support she did not define.
"The United States is committed to building the capacity of the moderate opposition, including through the provision of assistance to vetted members of the moderate armed opposition," she said in response to a query over the rocket videos.
"As we have consistently said, we are not going to detail every single type of our assistance," she said.
While the number of U.S. rockets seen remains small, reports of their presence are steadily spreading, analysts say.
The Syrian government has completed the delivery of the 13th consignment of chemicals to Latakia, which was removed today from the port on cargo ships. This follows a shipment that took place on 10 April.
The deliveries have raised the overall portion of chemicals removed from Syria to 65.1% of the total, including 57.4 % of the Priority 1 chemicals. Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü described these movements as ‘necessary and encouraging’.
Noting that Syria had reaffirmed its commitment to meeting its obligations, the Director-General observed, “Both the frequency and volumes of deliveries have to increase significantly to restore alignment of actual movements against the projected time frame.”
The commandos infiltrated Syrian rebel-held territory near the Lebanese border, watching rebel fighters come and go from a two-story villa before slipping inside to plant a powerful bomb. The next morning, they detonated it as three rebel explosive experts and four assistants met inside, turning the villa to rubble in seconds.
The operation late last month in Syria's western Qalamoun region was carried out by fighters from Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group, several Lebanese officials close to the militants have told The Associated Press. The Shiite group has sent hundreds of its fighters into Syria to shore up President Bashar Assad's overstretched troops, helping them gain ground around the capital, Damascus, and near the Lebanese border.
But with its own casualties mounting in a civil war that activists say has killed more than 150,000 people in three years, officials say Hezbollah has turned to a variety of new tactics — including complicated commando operations — to hunt down rebels and opposition commanders.
The aim of the new strategy, that includes hit-and-run attacks as well as reconnaissance missions, is to help Assad hold onto power, limit Hezbollah casualties and attack groups that want to launch attacks inside Lebanon itself.
"Hezbollah is also well aware of its comparatively limited manpower capacity," said Charles Lister, an analyst with the Brookings Doha Center. "So exploiting an ability to inflict damage on the enemy without expending significant resources ... is a natural strategic development."
Hezbollah has a long history of guerrilla attacks. It fought Israel in the wake of its occupation of south Lebanon until it pulled out in 2000, relying on hit-and-run assaults to combat Israel's army.
In Syria, the turning point in Hezbollah's strategy came after the group helped secure the Syrian border town of Qusair last June, said the Lebanese officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Hezbollah military tactics. After that battle, they say rebels ambushed and killed four elite Hezbollah fighters after Syrian troops told them the area was secure.
The UN refugee agency and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), with agreement from the government and opposition forces, have delivered the first humanitarian aid into a besieged area of Aleppo since last June.
The ceasefire, agreed for the duration of the operation, was fully respected as two truck-loads of supplies were moved by hand into the Boustan al Qaser neighbourhood of eastern Aleppo.
The food, medicine, blankets, plastic sheeting, hygiene kits and kitchen sets were unloaded at the last checkpoint on the outskirts of the city. The aid -- moved the final 1.5 km to a SARC warehouse using 54 pull-carts and 75 workers in 270 separate trips -- will now be distributed to the population.
UNHCR staff had seen the dire humanitarian situation inside eastern Aleppo, reporting acute shortages of food, water and basic supplies. No humanitarian aid has reached the population since UNHCR last accessed the area in June 2013.
It is estimated that some 6.5 million of Syria's 22 million people have been displaced inside the country, while another 2.6 million are now refugees, mainly in neighbouring countries. The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate.