It will be your fault if civil war breaks out in Syria, Hillary Clinton tells Russia


Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, told Russia yesterday it will be responsible for unleashing a full-blown civil war in Syria unless it changes course and sides with Washington and other Western powers in pushing for President Bashar al-Assad to step down and facilitate a political transition.

The comments from Mrs Clinton, made in Copenhagen at the start of a Scandinavian tour, reflect a deepening conviction among top US policymakers that persuading President Vladimir Putin to cut Assad loose is about the only palatable option available in trying to tackle the Syrian crisis.

Finding some way forward is politically urgent for President Barack Obama, who, just five months from the US election, is being accused by Republicans of sitting on his hands. On a visit to Malaysia yesterday, Senator John McCain said it was "embarrassing that the United States of America refuses to show leadership and come to the aid of the Syrian people" and advocated arming the Syrian opposition.

Some diplomats hope that if progress with Russia cannot be made during visits by Mr Putin to Berlin and Paris today, it can be at a G20 summit later this month in Mexico. So far, however, Moscow, which has twice vetoed UN resolutions on Syria, seems intent on maintaining its opposition to outside intervention.

"We have to bring the Russians on board because the dangers we face are terrible," Mrs Clinton told a group of Danish students. In a clear message to Moscow, she said the Russians "are telling me they don't want to see a civil war. I have been telling them their policy is going to help contribute to a civil war."

The international stalemate came as a split in the command of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) was exposed when its supposed leader in Turkey dismissed a statement by a colonel on the ground who said the rebels would resume attacks if regime troops do not abide by a UN ceasefire by noon today.

FSA fighters inside Syria reacted furiously after Colonel Riad al-Asaad, who fled Syria for Turkey after his defection from the airforce in July last year and set up FSA with other senior defectors, contradicted Colonel Qassim Saadeddine's declaration of a deadline.

"The true leaders of the Free Syrian Army are inside Syria, not in five-star hotels in Turkey," an FSA spokesman told The Independent. "There are 10 regional military councils across Syria and the one they recognise as their leader is Colonel Qassim Saadeddine."

The friction between the two senior officers illustrates the growing tension in the FSA, with many of the more senior defectors taking up positions of command away from the battlefield in neighbouring Turkey. Col Saadeddine's video statement purported to speak for "the joint command of the Free Army inside Syria which includes all military councils with brigades and units in different governorates" and gave President Bashar al Assad's forces 48-hours to "end all forms of violence".

Yezid Sayigh, a senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut, said the FSA lacked "meaningful command structures" as many groups use the label but said he expects a "new generation" of opposition leaders to emerge on the ground between now and the autumn, both military and non-military.

The fragmented nature of the opposition to the Assad regime, has been one of the main reasons – alongside the lack of a UN mandate – that those calling for the Syrian president to be deposed have been reluctant to give military aid to the opposition.

"For those who are advocating arming the opposition they should consider the consequences of that approach and also to ask frankly, who are they arming?" noted Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the UN Security Council. "It is not a united opposition, it is fragmented." At a meeting in Geneva today, the UN Human Rights Council is expected set up a formal probe into last week's Houla massacre.

Dennis Ross, the respected former special adviser to President Obama, suggested yesterday that the US should be planning to create a "safe haven" for civilians in northern Syria, a step that would necessarily mean deploying troops to defend it. "We need to start planning for it," he said.

The most persistent critic of Mr Obama so far has been his challenger, Mitt Romney. "The world looks to America to lead and we've been sitting in the back burner hoping things would become arranged in a way that was attractive to the world," he said. "What's happening in Syria is unacceptable."

Houla massacre carried out by 'armed gangs'

The Syrian government yesterday claimed that the massacre in Houla was perpetrated by "armed gangs" as part of a plan to bring about civil war and foreign intervention.

Brigadier General Qassem Jamal Suleiman, the head of a committee investigating the killings, said the victims were opposed to armed opposition groups in the area and included the relatives of a member of parliament. "The massacre... is part of the plan for a civil war with international intervention," he said.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, insisted that security forces never entered the area. "The victims' bodies did not show any traces of bombing," he said. Mr Makdissi's statement is contradicted by videos from Houla before the massacre on Friday.

Loveday Morris

The boy, 11, who played dead as his family were murdered in their home

When the gunmen began to slaughter his family, 11-year-old Ali el-Sayed says he fell to the floor of his home, soaking his clothes with his brother's blood to fool the killers into thinking he was already dead.

The Syrian boy tried to stop himself from trembling, even as the gunmen, with long beards and shaved heads, killed his parents and all four of his siblings, one by one.

The youngest to die was Ali's brother, 6-year-old Nader. His small body bore two bullet holes, one in his head, another in his back.

"I put my brother's blood all over me and acted like I was dead," Ali told the AP news agency over Skype, his raspy voice steady and matter-of-fact, five days after the killing spree that left him both an orphan and an only child.

Ali is one of the few survivors of a weekend massacre in Houla, a collection of poor farming villages and olive groves in Syria's central Homs province. More than 100 people were killed, many of them women and children who were shot or stabbed in their houses. AP

A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn