US: Syrian Rebels ‘Continue to Make Steady Gains’

Signpost showing distance to Damascus.

Efforts of the opposition in Syria to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad seem to be progressing, according to an assessment from the United States. Spokesperson Victoria Nuland, speaking with reporters on Wednesday, cited reports of rebels downing a government helicopter as an example of what’s happening inside Syria.

“We are seeing opposition forces continuing to make steady gains,” Nuland was quoted by a State Department press release as saying. “We also are following reports of two deadly car bombs in Damascus today. The fighting in and around Damascus is clearly intensifying, and reports that the opposition shot down a regime helicopter; you’ve probably seen that on YouTube. This is all clearly evidence of the increasing strength of the opposition and its capabilities.”

The more than a year-and-a-half-old Syrian conflict has seen thousands of Syrians killed and tens of thousands of Syrian refugees flee the country. After starting as peaceful protests against Assad that were met with a brutal government crackdown, the fighting has spiraled into something of a civil war.

Despite the intensity of the fighting and the American demand that Assad step down, the US has maintained that they are not intending to provide arms to the Syrian rebels.

“Our own policy has not changed with regard to this,” said Nuland in response to a question about providing heavy arms to the rebels such as shoulder-fired missiles. “As you know, we are supplying only nonlethal support to the opposition.

“But analytically, you’re clearly right, that as they take more facilities and as they make gains on the regime, they are able to capture weapons and there are other things getting in there. I’m not able from here to actually confirm the precise type of weaponry in some of these recent attacks, but we’re clearly seeing more lethality there.”

The US and European and Arab allies have sought to undercut the Assad government with sanctions and diplomacy in an effort to open Syria up to democracy. The US has repeatedly denounced the actions of the Syrian regime and Nuland continued that theme on Wednesday.

Said the US spokesperson, “We see increasingly horrific tactics being employed by the regime as it struggles to cling to power, including direct attacks on hospitals in civilian areas.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, November 29, 2012)