The rhetoric of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan towards Assad has become much more aggressive over the past week. He accused him of “cowardice” and said he’ll share the fate of Hitler, Mussolini and Qaddafi if he doesn’t resign.
“Just remove yourself from that seat before shedding more blood, before torturing more and for the welfare of your country as well as the region,” Erdogan said to Assad. He has been saying as far back as August that “the Syrian issue is an internal Turkish affair.”
Jordanian King Abdullah II became the first Arab leader to explicitly tell Assad to give up power. “If I were in his shoes, I would step down…If Bashar has the interest of the country, he would step down,” he said.
The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in a measure that only Yemen (where Syrian pilots are reportedly helping the regime) and Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon voted against. Iraq abstained, likely out of fear of Iranian proxy Moqtada al-Sadr, who is standing by Assad. The Arab League is signaling its support for regime change by meeting with the Syrian National Council in Cairo. An advisor to the Secretary-General of the Arab League said sanctions are being prepared against Assad and that it is working on “uniting the Syrian opposition on a united vision regarding the future of Syria during the transitional period.” Syria has until the end of Friday to allow a team of 500 human rights monitors into the country.
Iran is standing by Assad, helping his forces to put down the revolution. At the same time, Iran tried to reach out to the National Coordinating Committee opposition group, which is opposed to foreign intervention. It is unknown if Iran is trying to build relations with the opposition in case Assad loses or if Iran is trying to split the opposition and empower the one opposed to outside help. Either way, the Committee rejected Iran because “no one trusted Iran.”
Russia has deployed warships to the Mediterranean Sea, which was widely interpreted as an expression of solidarity with Assad. According to one Arab newspaper, the Russian ships transported technical advisors to Syria to install advanced radar systems at every critical site. The advisors are said to be helping Assad set up the Russian S-300, an advanced air defense system, which the report says was delivered in recent weeks. Iran paid for the delivery. The Russians offered the same kind of aid to Saddam Hussein shortly before the invasion of Iraq.
Iran and Assad will not take this lying down, and Assad will not go down without a bloody fight. The Middle East is about to become an even hotter place.
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