“[An] international conference on a political solution to the situation in Syria has no meaning in light of the massacres that are taking place,” said SNC spokesman Khalid Saleh.
It was always unclear whether opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Adssad and his regime would attend the conference, as infighting has plagued the SNC and Assad’s forces — with the help of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah — have made military gains in recent weeks.
The Syrian government said this week it would attend the peace talks with “good intentions” and without preconditions, as Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said on Wednesday.
“One of the objectives of Geneva is to rehabilitate Assad,” Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center, told the Wall Street Journal. “That’s how the Russians see it. That’s how the Syrian government sees it, and quite frankly, the U.S. might even be open to that soft landing where elements of the regime will be maintained.”
Meanwhile, Assad said in an interview on Thursday that Russia has delivered S-300 air defense missiles to Syria and the Washington Post reports that in March the Syrian army requested from a Russian company 20,000 AK-47 rifles, 20 million rounds of ammunition, machine guns, grenade launchers and night vision goggles to the Syrian military.
In other news:
The Washington Post reports: President Obama plans to nominate James B. Comey, a former senior Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, to replace Robert S. Mueller III as FBI director, according to two people with knowledge of the selection process.
Reuters reports: The U.N. nuclear watchdog acknowledged on Wednesday it might not find anything if allowed access to an Iranian military facility, in an apparent reference to suspected clean-up work there, diplomats said.
The New York Times reports: The British Defense Ministry on Wednesday confirmed that it had been holding up to 90 Afghan detainees for months at a military base in southern Afghanistan, after legal action filed by some of the detainees’ lawyers in Britain raised human rights objections.
Al-Monitor reports: The top US diplomat on Syria Robert Ford plans to step down this summer, several US officials tell the Back Channel.