Even in a country which has seen horrific violence over the past two years – violence which has led to the deaths of more than 70,000 people -- the series of car bombs which exploded in Damascus, Syria on February 21 were a shocking example of indiscriminate brutality.
Dozens of people were reportedly killed and hundreds, mostly civilians, were injured. The blasts occurred near the downtown headquarters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s governing party and close to the Russian embassy, as well as a mosque and a school. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the main Syrian umbrella group for those opposed to President Assad, denounced the car bombings. “Any acts targeting civilians with murder or human rights violations are criminal acts that must be condemned, regardless of the perpetrator or the justification,” said the National Coalition.
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland also strongly condemned the attacks, and said that “the U.S. has been conveying to the opposition, both [the] political opposition and in our contacts with fighters, that indiscriminate violence against civilians, political reprisals don’t help anybody and don’t help the cause of gaining the population’s support for a peaceful, democratic transition in Syria. . . .This kind of violence has got to stop.”
Ms. Nuland noted, however, that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “has it in his power to stop this today:”
“He has it in his power to stop this anytime he wants. The opposition has put forward a legitimate proposal for talks if he will allow that to go forward, and it is the regime that…has been conducting aerial attacks on his people, using helicopters, bombarding neighborhoods and towns for more than a year now. They bear the preponderance of responsibility for the violence in Syria.”
The United States has been working with allies to accelerate a political transition in the country. The U.S. has been providing non-lethal assistance to the opposition and is the largest single contributor to relief efforts for the Syrian people, millions of whom have been displaced inside the country, and hundreds of thousands of whom have fled across the border.
“We are working with our allies to put pressure on the Assad regime to bring about a future that the Syrian people deserve,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, “and that is a future without President Assad.”