From CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty, in Istanbul
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slammed Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad for what she charged is a string of broken promises and called for new steps to pressure the Assad regime, shore up the Syrian opposition and provide urgent humanitarian aid for the victims of the violent conflict.
"The world must judge Assad by what he does, not by what he says," Clinton told representatives in Istanbul attending the second Friends of Syria meeting, "and we cannot sit back and wait any longer."
The Obama administration last week slapped new sanctions on three more senior Assad regime officials and Clinton praised the Friends of Syria for its decision to form a sanctions working group to coordinate and expand sanctions and strengthen enforcement. "Together we must further isolate this regime, cut off its funds, and squeeze its ability to wage war on its own people," she said.
The Friends of Syria, which includes some 60 nations currently meeting in Istanbul, are creating a Sanctions Working Group, which senior State Department officials told reporters will coordinate sanctions against the Syrian regime and serve as a "clearing house of information on who is shipping arms, money to Assad to assist him in his killing, who is evading sanctions." The officials said the group will use the media and publicity to "name and shame" those who are helping Assad and his regime.
By Elise Labott, CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter
Expectations are low for Sunday's Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul, where representatives from more than 70 nations and international organizations will gather to discuss ways to hasten the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.
The reason is simple. The most critical piece is missing: Plan B.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made no secret of her frustration with the opposition Syrian National Council's inability to offer a vision for a post-al-Assad Syria that all Syrians can sign on to. This week, Clinton said the United States would be "pushing them very hard" to present such a vision in Istanbul.
She's not alone. Many a senior administration official has summed up the SNC in two words: "A mess."
By Jill Dougherty
A leading member of the Syrian opposition says their leaders, who hope to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later this week, will request more assistance as the siege by Bashar al-Assad's government continues.
Leaders of the Syrian National Council, the largest opposition group, will attend the "Friends of Syria" meeting in Istanbul this weekend. The meeting, a follow-up to an earlier gathering in Tunisia, will focus on ways to put a stop to the carnage in Syria and support a transition to democracy.
Representatives from 60 countries are invited.
By Barbara Starr
Despite reports of high-level defections of government and military officials, U.S. intelligence sees no signs of significant deterioration of support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by his inner circle, senior U.S. intelligence officials said Friday.
Read also: U.N. envoy to meet with Syria's president
The officials, who would speak only on the condition that their names not be used, said that to date, the defections have been of lower-level officials and those in the military. None of those defections, including the group of military officers who are reported to have defected this week, are close enough to al-Assad to truly make a difference, the senior intelligence officials said.
By CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo
The violence in Syria will get worse despite increased international pressure, according to the U.S. military's top commander in the Middle East.
Desertions are on the rise in the Syrian military, but President Bashar al-Assad's forces remain viable, Gen. James Mattis, head of the U.S. Central Command, said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday
"He will continue to employ heavier and heavier weapons on his people," Mattis said. "I think it will get worse before it gets better."
Mattis said al-Assad will be in power "for some time" and is "clearly achieving what he wants to achieve." Though later he said he has no doubt al-Assad will eventually fall, saying the question is "not if, but when."
The Syrian military's advance into the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs has changed the dynamics of the resistance to the Assad regime - and put further pressure on Western policy-makers to find ways to help the opposition and protect Syrian civilians. But as Washington debates what's next for Syria, Gulf states are already beginning to provide the opposition with arms and the funding to purchase them, sources in the region tell CNN.
To the Obama administration, the regime's assault on Homs is an ominous sign. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman told a Senate hearing Thursday: "It's important that the tipping point for the regime be reached quickly because the longer the regime assaults the Syrian people, the greater the chances of all out war and a failed state."
By Barbara Starr and Jamie Crawford
After weeks of collecting intelligence on Syria and watching the attacks by the forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad, the U.S. sees "no fracturing" of the Syrian regime and assesses al-Assad could remain in power for some time to come if the situation does not change, according to a senior U.S. official.
This the basic conclusion of top officials closely watching Syria, the official said. Unless something changes in the next several days, this will also be the message delivered to the Senate Armed Services Committee next week by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The hearing, called for Wednesday, is the first public hearing in which both men will be publicly questioned by Congress on the Syrian crisis.
Sen. John McCain, the senior Republican on the committee, has already called for arming rebel forces, something the defense secretary expects to be asked about, according to the official. The issue of U.S. military planning for options in Syria is also expected to arise, but officials say the secretary and the general may not be able to offer many specifics in an open session before the public.
Instead, they are likely to talk more about the current situation in Syria and how the U.S. views the al-Assad regime.
By Elise Labott
World powers meeting Friday in Tunisia called for a political solution in Syria and what one diplomat called a "tsunami wave" of pressure to peel away internal support for the embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad.
"We agreed on increasing the pressure on Assad, getting humanitarian aid in as quickly as possible and preparing for a democratic transition," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters. "That was my message, and that was the message of the chairman statement that reflected the consensus reached here."
That consensus was reached during a day of meetings by the "Friends of Syria" in the cradle of the Arab Spring, where participants laid out the groundwork for a political transition in Syria, not unlike the international planning that preceded the changes in Libya, where Moammar Gadhafi's regime was toppled last year.
Representatives of dozens of countries and entities developed a plan to deliver immediate humanitarian aid, to give political legitimacy to the Syrian opposition and to endorse the idea of a joint Arab-U.N. peacekeeping force.
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By Elise Labott and Adam Levine
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the opposition Syrian National Council is emerging as an alternative to the Bashar al-Assad regime and that the consensus opinion among Arab League and other nations is that the group is a credible representative. Diplomats tell CNN that the opinion will be reflected in the communique to be issued from the Friends of Syria conference on Friday in Tunisia.
The Obama administration has been conflicted about the opposition. Just last week, top intelligence and military officials spoke of how undefined the opposition is. But it seems the U.S. is moving towards supporting the opposition even with concerns about who they are comprised of. FULL POST