Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced yesterday that the Obama Administration would be giving an additional $45 million in non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition, including $15 million towards the training of an alternative "government in the wings" that does not yet exist.
The announcement was made during a Friday meeting in New York City of the so-called "Friends of Syria" group of 20 foreign ministers, chaired by Hillary and Elarabi, the head of the Arab League. The meeting was a pathetic gathering, dominated by the shared assessment that the internal conflict will not be settled soon. The usual suspects—Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with strong backing from Britain, France and Germany—all pressed again for the U.S. to establish a no-fly zone.
The whole thrust of the meeting, however, was shifted, when the Iraq Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari presented a two-phase peace plan for Syria. The first phase simply involved implementing the very agreement that was signed at the Geneva meeting hosted by Kofi Annan on June 30, 2012. The second phase involved convening a conference in a neutral country outside the Middle East, with the participation of the Assad government and all of the "legitimate" opposition groups, to hammer out a transition. Zebari insisted that there be no pre-conditions, such as the removal of Assad from power. Following the meeting, Zebari met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who indicated to him that Russia would support his proposal.