Hillary Clinton Issues Threat Against Assad
July 9, 2012 • 8:04AM

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton threatened Syria with a "catastrophic assault" against institutions of state if the Assad regime didn't end the violence. Speaking during a press conference in Tokyo, where she was attending the latest Afghanistan donors conference, Clinton said that "The sooner there can be an end to the violence and a beginning of a political transition process, not only will fewer people die, but there is a chance to save the Syrian state from a catastrophic assault that would be very dangerous not only to Syria but to the region."

Reuters was quick to absolve her of threatening military strikes on Syria, though. "It appeared clear that Clinton was referring to the possibility of Syrian rebels launching such an assault on state institutions, rather than to any outside military intervention," the British news agency said, then it further quoted Clinton as saying "There is no doubt that the opposition is getting more effective at defending themselves and in going on the offence against the Syrian military and the Syrian government's militias. So, the future... should be abundantly clear to those who support the Assad regime. The sand is running out of the hour glass."

How the Assad government understands Clinton's remarks may be indicated by reports from the official news agency, SANA, that the Syrian navy had carried out live fire exercises off the coast, yesterday, simulating a scenario of repelling an attack from the sea. According to SANA, the exercise was "part of the combat training plan issued by the General Command of the Army and Armed Forces, which involves military maneuvers carried out over several days involving land, sea and air forces in order to test the combat readiness of the Syrian Arab Army and inspect its ability to carry out its duties in circumstances similar to possible combat conditions."

But efforts to end the bloodshed are still ongoing. UN envoy Kofi Annan arrived in Damascus on Sunday for talks with Syrian President Bashar al Assad, though they are not expected to meet until Monday. Meanwhile, Assad told German television network Das Erste in an interview that the Annan plan must be allowed to succeed. "We know that he is coming against countless obstacles but his plan should not be allowed to fail," Assad reportedly said. "It is a very good plan." He said the biggest obstacle "is that many countries do not even want this plan to succeed so they offer political support and continue to provide terrorists in Syria with arms and money."