Photograph by AFP/Getty Images.
UPDATE: Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime just can't understand what all this "civil war" talk is about.
On the same day that Assad's government said that it has retaken control of the mountainous Haffa region, a rebel stronghold, after eight days of fierce shelling and clashes, the foreign ministry on Wednesday said it was "surprised" that the international community sees the bloody conflict that has left thousands dead as a civil war.
"Talk of civil war in Syria is not consistent with reality," the ministry said, according to Al Arabiya. "What is happening in Syria is a war against armed terrorist groups plotting against the future of the Syrian people."
Unsurprisingly, international observers and diplomats see things quite a bit differently. Many in the west have been warning for weeks that the conflict has been inching ever closer to full-blown civil war. On Tuesday, the U.N.'s chief peacekeeper suggested that the nation had officially reached that tipping point.
"Clearly what is happening is that the government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory, several cities to the opposition, and wants to retake control," said the U.N.'s Herve Ladsous. "I think there is a massive increase in the level of violence, so massive indeed that in a way it indicates some change of nature."
That assessment was echoed Wednesday by France. "If you can't call it a civil war, then there are no words to describe it," new French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told a news conference in Paris.
Tuesday, June 12: Things just keep getting worse in Syria.
The latest bad news comes from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who suggested Tuesday that Russia may be in the process of sending attack helicopters to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.
While that report remains unconfirmed, if accurate, it would appear certain to lead to even more violence and civilian deaths in the Arab nation's 15-month conflict that many diplomats had already warned was inching ever closer to a full-blown civil war that could have far-reaching effects in the region.
The Associated Press reports that Clinton broke the news during a public appearance at a Washington, D.C., think tank, saying that the United States is "concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria" and suggesting that the shipment "will escalate the conflict quite dramatically."
Even if Clinton's concerns proved unfounded, the mere fact that she is publicly suggesting that Russia is arming the Assad regime in its fight against opposition forces is further confirmation that Washington has been unable to convince Moscow to sign on to an international effort to bring an end to the conflict. Without Russia's support, the U.N. has instead had to rely on a fragile peace plan brokered by Kofi Annan that provided only initial glimpses of hope before recent civilian massacres in Syria led both sides to walk away from the cease-fire.