Russia is sending attack helicopters to Syria for President Bashar Assad's regime to use in its campaign to stamp out opposition, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said today.
She warned that such action "will escalate the conflict quite dramatically."
The U.S. and Russia have been at odds over how hard to squeeze the regime in an effort to end its harsh crackdown on anti-Assad protests — a crackdown that the U.N. says has killed more than 10,000 people since March 2011, mostly civilians.
Last month, Clinton accused Russia of "propping up" the Assad regime. Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected that charge. He also said Russia doesn't supply weapons "that can be used in civil conflicts." So it will be interesting to see how he or his aides respond to Clinton's latest charge.
As The Associated Press points out: "Russia and Syria have a longstanding military relationship and Syria hosts Russia's only naval base on the Mediterranean Sea."
On All Things Considered Friday, Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy described how the Assad regime uses its "armed forces, shelling [and] helicopter gunships" to clear areas of opposition and then sends in Shabiha militia units to further terrorize the people and hold the ground.
Our related posts from earlier today:
-- The conflict in Syria is now a full-scale civil war, according to U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous. (Reuters)
-- Heavy fighting killed at least 34 people today. (Voice of America)
-- Clinton also warned that a massing of Syrian forces near Aleppo could be a "red line" for Turkey "in terms of their strategic and national interests." (The Associated Press)