Daily Israel Report

Quartet, US Disagree as Syria's Assad Gains on Rebel Forces

Quartet envoy Tony Blair, US officials disagree on how to deal with Syria as Pres. Assad gains on increasingly fragmented opposition forces.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 7/8/2013, 2:46 PM

Quartet Envoy Tony Blair
Quartet Envoy Tony Blair
Flash 90

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, currently serving as Middle East envoy to the Quartet – comprised of the United Nations, European Union, Russia and the United States – has called for international intervention in Syria.

Blair made the appeal Monday in an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today program, following a vicious onslaught by loyalist forces defending Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad against rebel fighters in the city of Homs, about 88 miles north of Damascus.

A strategic area that links the capital with army bases in coastal regions controlled by Assad, Homs also links Damascus and the coast with Hizbullah terrorist bases in Lebanon to the west.

Assad forces advanced on rebel-held areas of the city considered the “capital of the revolution” over the weekend and seized control of a neighborhood where rebels had held sway for more than a year, Aljazeera reported.

Blair warned Monday that opposition forces are slowly losing ground against Assad’s forces, and without more international support, might entirely lose the war.

“Inaction is also a policy and a decision with consequence,” he said, adding, “The thing we’ve got to understand about this region is that there are people intervening. So if we disengage, it’s not that these disputes are playing themselves out within their countries.”

Blair called for a no-fly zone in the region, and said Britain should consider arming Syria’s opposition forces.

But top officials in the United States don’t agree.  U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN’s State of the Union this week that Syria’s troubles “will persist for 10 years.”    

He said the 10-year time frame held true for the underlying regional issues that ignited that civil war as well as the current problems in Lebanon and Iraq.  Dempsey pointed to internecine conflicts between extremist members of sects in Shia and Sunni Islam as being the cause of the conflict – “Al Qaeda on one side and Lebanese Hizbullah and others on the other side,” Dempsey said. 

The U.S. has agreed to send small arms, ammunition and possibly anti-tank weapons to the Syrian rebels, sources said, but little else, as an American military presence grows instead in Jordan, where concerns are being raised over defense of that country’s border with Syria.

“It seems to me that we need to understand what the peace will look like before we start the war,” Dempsey said.