That effort in recent days has included quietly rounding up hundreds of university students in the country’s largest city, Aleppo, and the stabbing deaths of several suspected opposition figures by pro-Assad hit squads, U.S. officials said. Anti-government activists reported renewed shelling by government tanks on Friday in the city of Douma, near Damascus, as well as snipers firing at protesters from rooftops.
Intelligence assessments, meanwhile, show scant progress by Assad toward implementing any of the six steps of the U.N. peace plan he nominally accepted in March. Under the accord, the Syrian government was to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from Syrian cities and allow humanitarian aid to reach civilians in hard-hit areas.
“None of the six points are being honored,” said a senior administration official privy to internal U.S. assessments of the 14-month-old uprising. “The fact that there appear to be fewer deaths [in recent days] is a good thing, but so far, this is far from a success.”
White House shifts stance
Assad’s refusal to honor his commitments is behind a pronounced shift in the Obama administration’s stance on the peace plan in recent days. While stopping short of calling the accord a failure, White House officials are suggesting publicly and privately that it is time to consider a new approach.
“If the regime’s intransigence continues, the international community is going to have to admit defeat,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Thursday. Referring to continued violence by pro-regime forces, Carney added: “It is clear, and we will not deny that plan has not been succeeding thus far.”
Carney’s comments contrasted with a more positive assessment Friday by U.N. officials, who insisted that the peace plan developed by Kofi Annan, a former U.N. secretary general who is serving as the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria, remains on track.
“A crisis that has been going on for over a year is not going to be resolved in a day or a week,” Annan’s spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, told reporters in Geneva. He pointed to U.N. efforts to triple the number of truce monitors in the country, from about 50 to 150 or even 300 in coming weeks, and noted that Syria has pulled back some of the tanks and other heavy weapons that Assad has used to pound opposition strongholds.
“There are no big signs of compliance on the ground. There are small signs of compliance,” Fawzi said. “Some heavy weapons have been withdrawn. Some heavy weapons remain. Some violence has receded, some violence continues. And that is not satisfactory.”