BREAKING: #Russia changing on #Assad but not as fast as conditions in #Syria

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There was Breaking News of sorts out of Russia on Syria this afternoon. Russia announced on Monday that it was stopping all new weapons sales to Syria. However, it will continue to honor all existing contracts, which makes this not such a hot item in my book. Here is a good Washington Post story on the item:

Russia: No new arms sales to Syria

Jul. 9, 2012 - Russia announced Monday that it is stopping all new weapons sales to Syria. It is continuing to honor old weapons deals, over the objection of western diplomats. (AP)

Considerably more interesting is this little tidbit from Christiane Amanpour indicating that Russian would not oppose unilateral western intervention in Syria:

Dimitri Simes on Syria: "[Russia] would not resist such an intervention..."

For the Monday, July 9th edition of Amanpour, host Christiane Amanpour interviewed the president of the Center for the National Interest, Dimitri Simes, for insights into Russia's resistance to Western intervention in Syria – and asked whether that position may be evolving. This is a portion of that exchange:

: Well, you say Russia wouldn't resist. Do you mean if the United States decided to gather its own coalition and do, for instance, what it did in Kosovo, do an end run around Russia, that Russia would not resist?

SIMES: Well, since you asked, recently had a top-level Russian delegation hosted by the Center for the National Interest, it included a senior Russians official being there in an official capacity. And we had a private dinner this question was raised, and the answer was very clear. Russia would not welcome such an intervention; Russia would not approve such an intervention. It would not resist such an intervention and this intervention would not become a major issue in the U.S.-Russian relationship.

The NY Times has also come out with their take on these developments:

Russia Prods Syria’s President Assad With Message of Growing Impatience
Published: July 9, 2012
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Moving further from its strict stance of nonintervention, Russia pressured President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Monday to be more flexible about the future of his ravaged country, insisting that he talk with adversaries, inviting an anti-Assad delegation to the Kremlin and restricting shipments of new weapons to the Syrian armed forces.

Taken together, the developments appeared to signal that Russia, the Syrian government’s most important foreign backer, may be laying the basis for the option of eventually distancing itself from Mr. Assad, who has repeatedly cast the uprising against him as the work of foreign-backed terrorists and has insisted that he enjoys popular support.

However it looks like external military intervention will not be necessary.

These apparent changes in Russian policy are being driven by even quicker changes on the ground. And far more important than these reports about what the Russian are going is this segment from Richard Engel who has just come back from Syria and reports what is happening on the ground.

He says that Assad now controls little of Syria outside of the major cities. In the countryside and villages, it is the Free Syrian Army that is in control. They travel freely on the roads, armed and in uniform. They are getting regular requests from Syrian army posts to be attacked so that they too will have an excuse to run away and defect. None of the 80,000 new conscripts that are suppose to enroll in Assad's army this year are showing up. The FSA is buying their weapons from Syrian Army officers and in general it sound like the situation is changing very fast.

Richard Engel was also on the Rachel Maddow show tonight and he went into more details there. This is a very important report:

In the same vein, James Bay of Al Jazeera interviews a captured Syrian soldier who defects to the opposition:

Homs has seen some of the worst violence between government and opposition forces. Activists claim an increasing number of Syrian soldiers based there have been defecting. Al Jazeera's James Bays went to Homs province sent this exclusive report.

James Bays comments on Syrian defections

As the battles in Syria grow more intense, it is extremely difficult to work out what is going on in the country's multiple front lines. Al Jazeera's James Bays reports.

The Nation is concerned with what will become of Assad's stockpile of chemical weapons in the piece they put out just minutes ago:

Syria threatens toxic outcome
Leonard S Spector
Washington July 10, 2012 1:00 am

As rebels gain territory, regime guards could abandon chemical-weapon arsenals

Conflict is escalating in Syria with the Assad government losing control. Rebels are receiving new shipments of armaments and have extended their control to large areas of the countryside in the north and receive new shipments of armaments, even as high-profile army defections undermine confidence in the government and strain resources.

Syria's massive chemical arsenal poses multiple dangers as the country's violent unrest slides into civil war.

And the mass protests that are driving everything continue as well: This was yesterday in Dara:

Here are my related diaries on Syria:
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