By Stephen Kaufman
Washington — With credible reports that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s military forces have massed outside the city of Aleppo, the United States is concerned that “we will see a massacre in Aleppo, and that’s what the regime appears to be lining up for,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said July 26.
Speaking to reporters in Washington, Nuland described the situation outside Syria’s second-largest city as “horrific,” and said the Assad regime “will stop at nothing to hold onto power.”
“This is abhorrent, what this regime is willing to do against its own people. We have to call it out,” Nuland said.
The Assad regime “has been given chance after chance to end the violence, to turn the page, to address the grievances of its own citizens,” she said. “Instead, they’ve responded with bombardments and fixed-wing aircraft, helicopter gunships, artillery in the city and now this massing outside of one of the most historic and beautiful cities in that part of the world.”
She said the operation against Aleppo is “another desperate attempt by a regime that is going down to try to maintain control,” noting that Assad has increasingly lost control of territories within the country and the tactics of his forces have become more violent and desperate as that has happened.
“He will go. It’s just a matter of time, and it’s a matter of how many have to die before that happens,” she said.
Russian and Chinese opposition to United Nations Security Council resolutions backing U.N. and Arab League peace efforts have effectively “checkmated” the Security Council, and the United States is working with others in the international community to support the Syrian opposition to prepare for the day after the regime ends, she said.
“In the absence of being able to work in the U.N., we have to redouble our efforts with like-minded nations outside of the U.N. system … to do what we can on the humanitarian side, but most importantly now to work with the opposition on … the plans and the principles that have to undergird a democratic transition,” she said.
“We have to have a Syria for all Syrians, we have to have security for all Syrians, we can’t have reprisals, we can’t have individual agendas. We have to have people in Syria who are prepared to work towards a democratic future that protects the rights of all. So that is what we are working on,” Nuland said.
The Obama administration continues to believe that outside military intervention only will pour “more fuel on this fire” by adding to the violence and destruction. “The vast majority of Syrians … continue not to want foreign military intervention, more weapons flowing into their country … because they see the same thing that we do: It could potentially lead to a much greater loss of life,” Nuland said.
But she said the United States has been supporting the Syrian opposition with nonlethal equipment, including communications equipment and medical supplies.