Heavy fighting reported in Damascus
The civil war is coming home to President Bashar Assad. The Syrian army and rebels clashed in a neighborhood close to the city center.
On Sunday, some of the heaviest fighting yet experienced in Damascus erupted in a neighborhood about a 20-minute drive southwest of the city center, with activists calling it the first time government forces have shelled rebel holdouts in the capital.
The fighting extended into Monday, residents and activists said, while inconclusive diplomatic efforts to find a way out of the crisis seemed certain to run into renewed Russian resistance to any outcome that aimed at pressuring President Bashar al-Assad to leave office.
In advance of a visit by Kofi Annan, the special Syria envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia told a news conference in Moscow that there were "elements of blackmail" in the Western approach to the crisis at the United Nations. His remarks suggested that there had been no softening in Moscow's stance as Mr. Assad's most important international sponsor.
With continual fighting across Syria, replacing what had been separate pockets that flared repeatedly, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced in Geneva on Sunday that the conflict could now be classified as a civil war.
On Monday, residents reported hearing heavy gunfire in the Tadamon neighborhood of Damascus. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group, said government forces and rebels were trading fire while hundreds of families were trying to flee the area, looking for safer neighborhoods.
We are nowhere near the end of this as rebels are still not strong enough to take and hold territory and Assad maintains the loyalty of much of the army. The opposition is still fractured and the only thing the west can think of doing is pretending that Annan's "peace plan" is still viable.
With no political solution possible, the Syrian civil war has the potential to last as long as Lebanon's conflict which ran from 1975-1991. The Alawites have the guns and heavy weapons while the Sunnis have the manpower. That's a recipe for stalemate -- and a years-long bloody conflict that destroys not only infrastructure but also civil society.