Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Suicide Bombings in Syria: Cease-Fire in Shambles, Al Qaeda Role Is Feared

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Suicide Bombings in Syria: Cease-Fire in Shambles, Al Qaeda Role Is Feared

Article excerpt

The suicide bombings' heavy toll in Damascus, far from creating international resolve, reveal a deepening split among world powers. Meanwhile signs of Al Qaeda involvement are mounting.

The suicide bombings that killed at least 55 people in Damascus Thursday reveal the shambles made of a key argument for Western nations to approve the UN cease-fire plan for Syria.

By that reasoning, sending international monitors into the country and giving the cease-fire a chance would eventually make anti-interventionist powers like Russia and China more open to international action.

But if anything, reactions to the bombings revealed a deepening split among world powers on the subject of Syria. With Russia attacking the forces arrayed against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and the United States finding a way to blame the Assad regime, prospects for any consensus that would allow more forceful international intervention appeared dimmer than ever.

The twin car bombings in busy morning traffic also raised the specter of Al Qaeda's entry into the Syrian conflict. It was not the first bombing in Damascus bearing the signature marks of the extremist Islamist organization, but the massive coordinated attack strengthened concerns in the US and elsewhere that Al Qaeda might be taking advantage of Syria's unrest to infiltrate the country (possibly from Iraq) and target the Assad regime.

In response to the bombings, Russia was quick to reiterate its thinking that some members of the international community are going so far as to promote violence as a means of subsequently justifying international intervention. "Some of our foreign partners are taking steps to ensure, both literally and figuratively, that the situation explodes," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said while on a visit to Beijing.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Obama administration said Assad was at least indirectly to blame for the bombings for having allowed Syria's political uprising to fester and more recently for failing to implement the six-point cease-fire plan of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which calls for an end to all violence and steps towards political reform.

"If the Assad regime were doing what it's supposed to do, which is to lead the way in demonstrating its commitment to the cease- fire, then we think that that would set the tone and we would not be seeing these kinds of violent episodes elsewhere in the country," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. "It is the Assad regime that created this climate of violence that is causing not only folks to take up arms in defense, but is also providing an environment, potentially, for mischief to be made by others who don't favor peace in Syria. …

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