US disagrees with Russian assessment of Syrian opposition


The United States on Thursday disagreed with Russia’s assessment that attacks by renegade Syrian troops risked plunging Syria into civil war, blaming the regime in Damascus for the violence.

“We think that’s an incorrect assessment,” US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner told reporters after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the assessment.

“If it (Russia) characterizes it as a civil war, we view that it is very much the (President Bashar al-) Assad regime carrying out a campaign of violence, intimidation and repression against innocent protesters,” Toner said.

“We don’t view it as a civil war,” he said when asked again if he disagreed with Lavrov, who was reacting to Wednesday’s attack by Syrian army defectors known as the Free Syrian Army on a military intelligence base outside Damascus.

A US State Department official told reporters later on condition of anonymity that the Russian comments only fueled the propaganda of the Assad regime which claims that the uprising is led by thugs and terrorists.

“Civil war …. just plays in the Syrian government’s hands that this is some terrorist movement against the government, and that’s just not the case,” the official said.

“It’s been from the very inception a peaceful movement,” he said.

“We have seen violence, we do believe it takes the country down a dangerous path, but the Syrian regime’s oppression, repression and killing of innocent civilians has exacerbated the situation and led to this,” the official said.