Russia Worried About Syria After Assad – US Intel Chief
20:54 18/04/2013 WASHINGTON, April 18 (RIA Novosti) –Russia has refused to join Western calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down because it fears not only losing its “last bastion” of influence in the Middle East but also what would follow Assad, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Thursday.
Syria “represents their last bastion, I guess, in the Middle East where they have influence. It’s been a huge weapons’ client of theirs,” Clapper told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on current and future threats to the United States.
“I also think they are concerned about what would happen after Assad in the be-careful-what-you-ask-for department,” he said.
Clapper said that Washington believes that Syria will be controlled by factions “when Assad falls,” adding that was “a question of time.”
Russia has vetoed two UN resolutions imposing sanctions on Assad’s regime, and on Wednesday said the Friends of Syria group, which supports the Syrian opposition’s demand for Assad to step down as a precondition for national reconciliation, was playing a ‘negative role’ in the Syrian conflict by encouraging extremists to seize power in the country.
The Syrian conflict, which started in March 2011 with peaceful protests demanding reforms, has gradually turned into a civil war in response to the government’s military crackdown on the protesters.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and nearly 1.4 million are registered as refugees in neighboring countries, according to the United Nations.
Some 400,000 Syrians have fled the country in the last seven weeks alone, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said Thursday, warning the Security Council that almost half of Syria’s population of 20.8 million could be in need of humanitarian aid by the end of 2013 unless the conflict ends soon.
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