Syria holds large-scale military exercises
DAMASCUS, Syria -- In a show of force, Syria began large-scale military exercises yesterday to simulate defending the country against outside "aggression."
Iran, a staunch ally of Syria, warned of a "catastrophe" in the region if no political solution to the 16-month-old conflict is found.
Iran's deputy foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, dismissed talk of foreign intervention, saying "nobody can imagine a military attack against Syria. We believe it will not happen. If it happens, Syria will defend itself and will not need help from Iran."
UN special envoy Kofi Annan has acknowledged that the international community's efforts to find a political solution to the escalating violence have failed. He arrived yesterday in Damascus for talks with Assad, his spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, said.
The West is reluctant to intervene, in part because unlike the military intervention that helped bring down Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, the Syrian conflict has the potential to quickly escalate. Damascus has a web of allegiances to powerful forces including Shia powerhouse Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah.
Assad said in comments published yesterday that he would not step down "in the face of national challenges." He spoke in a television interview with German public broadcaster ARD, which released his comments ahead of the interview's airing.
The military maneuvers began Saturday with naval forces in a scenario in which they repel an attack from the sea, and will include air and ground forces over the next few days, the state-run SANA news agency said. State TV broadcast footage of missiles being fired from launch vehicles and warships, an apparent warning to other countries not to intervene in the country's crisis.