Reinforcing the demand for arms shipments, a team of United Nations inspectors are in Turkey, supposedly to gather information about the possible use of chemical weapons, headed by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom. He is expected to deliver an interim report in July, without any basis for doing so other than to justify a predetermined course of action and, in particular, the military offensive planned to begin in August.
A Turkish official admitted that it is not possible to establish anything conclusively, "As [Sellstrom] cannot travel to Syria." All he will have will be intelligence and interviews provided by Turkey and alleged victims.
In Saudi Arabia, Kerry made the appropriate noises about seeking a negotiated solution and denied that there were any US or Saudi troops "on the ground" in Syria, because he is formally committed to a peace conference in Geneva--that again will not take place until after the planned military offensive.
Russia is an ally of the Assad regime and is insisting that it will be represented at the Geneva talks alongside Iran. The US also faces opposition from its allies including Italy and Germany to arming the opposition.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that Russia is committed to arranging a peace conference, but other countries and groups are trying to set preconditions. "The opposition, which is supported by the West, and other countries in the region, announced they are not going to the conference as long as the regime doesn't agree to capitulate," he said.
On Wednesday, outgoing US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice attacked Russia and China for vetoing action against Syria, calling the UN Security Council's inaction "a stain" on its reputation. "The council's inaction on Syria is a moral and strategic disgrace that history will judge harshly," she pontificated. Rice is set to become President Barack Obama's national security adviser.
Russia this week announced that it has withdrawn all its military and non-diplomatic civilian personnel out of Syria, including an evacuation of the 70 people at its naval supply station in the Mediterranean port of Tartus. The move does not affect Russia's ability to operate militarily in either the Mediterranean or in Syria, as Cyprus has agreed the use of its ports. A 16-ship naval task force is still in the eastern Mediterranean.
Politically, however, it indicates an assumption that an escalation of the war is imminent.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a diplomatic but nevertheless firm statement that Berlin would not supply weapons to the opposition. Speaking in parliament Thursday, she said that "The hardship of the people of Syria is immeasurably great, their situation is unbearable" and that "anyone with a heart" would want to help them.
"In this desperate situation, which is increasingly threatening the entire region, surely each of us can understand that our friends and partners the US, Britain and France are considering helping parts of the Syrian opposition with weapons shipments," she said, but added, "Whether this approach can succeed is an entirely different question."
"The risks, in my view, would be almost impossible to assess," she said. At the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, she continued, "I made it unmistakably clear that Germany for legal reasons sends no weapons into civil war zones, including Syria."
Washington, Berlin, London and Paris all face majority domestic opposition to their warmongering in Syria, with only the various pseudo-left groups such as the US International Socialist Organisation, Germany's Die Linke, Britain's Socialist Workers Party and France's New Anti-capitalist Party still denying the obviously sectarian character of the opposition militias.
This week and last, new videos have emerged on YouTube of opposition fighters beheading and shooting Syrian civilians, including two women. Two men, beheaded with a small knife before a cheering crowd, were accused of aiding Assad and were reportedly a priest and another Christian.
On Thursday, four people were killed in a suicide blast in a Christian neighborhood in the Syrian capital, Damascus. The blast took place near the Greek Orthodox Virgin Mary Church in Bab Sharqi. Several people were wounded.