Damascus in grip of tense stalemate
Iran and Syria condemned a U.S. plan to assist rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad on Saturday and signaled the Syrian leader intends to stay in power at least until 2014 presidential elections.
The remarks occurred as rebel forces have dug in to the north, east and south of Syria's capital, occupying stretches of suburban and rural terrain and threatening to break through to the heart of Damascus.
Government troops have largely pulled back to a well-defended core, including the city center and loyal bastions to the west.
After nearly two years of fighting in Syria that has mostly spared the capital, an uneasy stalemate reigns in Damascus. In recent days, the city has experienced mortar attacks and car bombings, while the military has responded in its usual fashion: withering bombardment of outlying rebel strongholds.
A huge explosion rocked the city last week, apparently a car bomb targeting a checkpoint in heavily defended Abaseen Square, a potential route into the city for rebels.
“I don't go anywhere unless I have specific business,” said a woman in her early 50s who requested anonymity for safety's sake. “No one does.”
The opposition presses foreign allies for support that could help break the impasse. On Thursday, Secretary of State John F. Kerry pledged $60 million in additional nonlethal aid during meetings with opposition figures in Rome, though he turned aside their plea for weapons.
Much of Assad's military is focused on defending a strategic zone that that includes the presidential palace, government buildings and military bases, drawing up a kind of cordon sanitaire around the capital. Damascus is crucial to both sides in the conflict, but it is only one of many battlegrounds.
Analysts say the government is determined to maintain a corridor from the capital along the highway north to Homs and to the Alawite heartland on the Mediterranean coast, long mentioned as a haven for Assad and his allies should the government collapse.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- EU awaits Greek plan for bailout
- Iraqi jet misfire kills 12 in Baghdad
- Egypt proposes anti-terrorism measures in response to attacks by Islamist militants
- Half a million faithful attend pope’s Ecuadoran Mass
- Militants launch deadly attacks against Muslims, Christians in Nigeria
- Wave of attacks sets Israelis on edge
- Sanctions, embargo among sticking points in nuclear deal with Iran
- Iraq, ISIS urge Turks to release dam water
- Gene therapy for cystic fibrosis promising, study shows
- Egypt foiled extremist ‘state’ in Sinai, president says
- Tunisia imposes state of emergency after terrorist attacks