“What frustrates . . . us is that there are no silver bullets here,” said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “There are no good options.”
In the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Friday, two suicide bombers struck compounds housing government security services, reportedly killing 28 people and wounding 238 in the worst violence to hit the country’s relatively calm commercial capital since the uprising began in March. The government blamed the attacks on foreign-backed “terrorists.”
The bombings coincided with the ongoing military offensive against the central city of Homs, where activists claim hundreds of people have been killed in the past week in the sustained artillery bombardment of neighborhoods loyal to the opposition.
An opposition group said 16 people were killed Friday in Homs and 15 in the suburbs of Damascus.
Russia’s veto of the U.N. resolution last weekend condemning the crackdown — and supporting an Arab League plan for Assad to surrender power — appears to have emboldened the government to unleash even greater force in its effort to crush the uprising, which began as a peaceful revolt but is rapidly evolving into an armed insurgency.
Proposals from some quarters — including within the U.S. Congress — to arm the opposition Free Syrian Army, establish a no-fly zone over Syria or provide outside military protection for “safe zones” or a humanitarian corridor inside Syria are not under consideration, administration officials said.
On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whose government has played a leading role in efforts to broaden the Syrian opposition to include minority groups, said Turkey is not providing arms or support to army defectors, whose ranks he estimated at 40,000, even though U.S. officials put the number much lower.
Davutoglu, in Washington for consultations on Syria, said that the military’s attacks against civilians “cannot be tolerated. We cannot wait and see [it become] like Sarajevo,” the Bosnian capital where Serbian forces rained artillery on civilians while the international community stood by and watched.
But Davutoglu acknowledged, along with administration officials, that international intervention is not currently on the table. He called for rapid international action to supply humanitarian assistance to Syrian cities he said were in desperate need of food and other supplies. Administration officials said that aid was likely to consist of stepped-up supplies to non-governmental organizations operating in Syria.